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Little Cone is found in the Uncompahgre National Forest, about 16mi west of Telluride. It rises to almost 12,000ft, sports more than 1,000ft of prominence, and can be seen to advantage from many directions. There had been several inches of snow a few days earlier, but our route from the southeast would have most of it melted off and of no consequence. The shortest route, about 5mi roundtrip, starts from the south but passes through a large section of private property. This can be seen in John Kirk's track on LoJ. With more research, Eric found a route that comes in at about 9mi, but travels (mostly) all through public lands. We downloaded jmbrooks8's track off LoJ as our guide. We managed to do even better, following flagging that kept us entirely on public lands, no bushwhacking or serious downfall. We would highly recommend future parties to borrow our track. The Forest access road is well graded that any vehicle can manage.
It was after 7:30a when we started out at the TH where Forest Rd 618 crosses the Hughes Ditch. A simple sign on a locked gate is all that indicates the trailhead. The trail is flat for the first 1.7mi as it follows the Hughes Ditch as it traverses the base of the mountain. A locked gate then indicates the ditch moves into private lands. Just before the gate, the trail crosses the ditch and can be seen heading up into the forest. Here the climbing begins and it is a pretty consistent grade most of the way. Most of the trail travels through oak and aspen forests, with a notable stretch of meadow with fine views looking east and south. Numerous "X" markings can be found on the aspens along the route. At around the 10,200-foot level, the trail abuts a fence with private property on the other side - no need to cross the fence. The trail turns away and resumes climbing, but it becomes a series of orange flaggings with less sign of use. It appears this is where the original trail traveled west into private property, but we chose to follow the flagging to the northwest, staying on public land. It helped that there were two of us to keep eyes out for the flagging as we lost them occasionally. The flagged route enventually reconnects with the other route around the 11,000-foot level. It was then easy to follow the decent trail SW to the South Ridge. We had expected to find some sort of trail up the South Ridge, but there was none that we could discover. The cross-country is easy enough, through forest and then becoming talus slopes around 11,400ft. We eventually reached the VABM point at 11,981ft around 10:30a, having spent just under 3hrs on the ascent. Before taking a rest at the highpoint, we walked north to the end of the summit ridge where some large cairns are located, four in all, and some pretty unobstructed views in three directions (west - north - east). Back at the highpoint, we found the benchmark and a somewhat busy register buried under a few inches of snow. Mike Garratt had left the register in 2010. The best views are to the southeast and south, across which stretches the San Miguel Mtns.
Our return route was much the same, going a little faster than the ascent and giving us more opportunity to enjoy the incredible views - puffy clouds above, snowy peaks, a riot of fall colors and crisp, clear air. We had started the hike with temps around freezing, warming some but then colder again at the summit. It warmed nicely for our descent, leaving us in tshirts for most of the hike. A fine day, this one...
This page last updated: Thu Oct 19 12:10:30 2023
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