Grant, Colorado (Summit) Technical Rating: 5-7
Last Updated: 10-15-2017
Deer Creek, Upper Hall Valley, Radical Hill, Saints John, Middle Fork Trail
Pike National Forest/South Platte Ranger District
Red Cone Highlights
Red Cone is a four-wheel drive trail providing spectacular views of the divide with a few rocky obstacles along the way. The upper portion traverses the ridge lines around 12,000 feet with views for miles, but it is the extremely steep, one-way descent at the end that will remain in your memory long after the trip is over. Use your lowest gear possible, turn on the AC if you have it to help slow that motor, and use the brakes as little as possible. Do not lock up your brakes. If you feel your back end sliding side-ways, you may have to give the vehicle a little throttle to straighten yourself back out.
Technical rating: (5-7) Moderate
Rocks frequent and large, 12" and may exceed hub height. Holes frequent or deep (12"). Shelves to 9". Mud 8" deep and may be present on uphill sections. Grades to 25 degrees and sidehill to 30 degrees. Water crossings to 18" and may have strong currents. 1-1/2 vehicles wide. 4WD required. Driver experience helpful.
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Directions to Trailhead
Take highway 285 west from Denver. Go about 3 miles past the town of Grant and turn right onto County Road 60. Continue on this main road for 5 miles and avoid all roads that turn left. The trailhead is marked by F.S. 565 on your right, along with a wooden bulletin board with the trail name.
The south end of the trail climbs steeply as you wind through the forest with sporadic rock obstacles, small creek crossings, and several muddy sections. The climb continues above tree line, across a few ridges untill you reach the very top of Red Cone. At this point the trail becomes one-way and descends down hill till it meets up with Webster Pass. The east side of Webster Pass stays snowed in till late July or August, but Red Cone only opens for the season once the west side of Webster Pass is clear, so there is always an exit from the trail. Heading east down Webster would return you to highway 285, heading west on Webster will drop you into the towns of Montezuma or Keystone.
1: Trailhead (0.0mi)
After about 5 miles on C.R. 60, begin Red Cone at F.S. 565. This intersection is very well marked with signage.
2: Rock Obstacle (0.4mi)
This obstacle is the first rock obstacle you will encounter on the trail. Small tires will make this obstacle difficult as the boulders are fairly large and require careful tire placement to keep your undercarriage from getting snagged.
3: Creek Crossing (0.8mi)
Cross a small creek and then veer slightly left as the trail follows a brief section of wash.
4: Rock Garden (1.4mi)
The Rock Garden is a short, wide area with a handful of large boulders to the right where a vehicle can test a few different lines. Each year this area changes. Some years the boulders seem massive, other years the earth appears to bury the majority of the challenge.
5: End of Tree Line (3.0mi)
You have now reached the end of tree line. This would be a good time to stop for the last, covered, potty break of the trip.
6: Red Cone Peak (5.3mi)
You have finally reached the Red Cone Peak. If you bunch up together, there is room for about 15 vehicles at the top. If you see a large group already ahead of you before reaching this point, it's probably a good idea to wait a bit and let them continue on past the top. Likewise, if you see a large group behind you while waiting at the top, it's probably a good idea to pack up and get moving. But definitely stop, take some pictures, and enjoy the views of Whale Peak (13,078'), Handcart Peak (12,518'), Landslide Peak (13,298'), and many others before you descend.
Red Cone is One Way Downhill Only from this point forward.
7: Descending Red Cone (5.3mi)
If steep descents bother you, this would be the time to turn around, or gather your courage and hold on tight!
Do not lock up your brakes on this descent. It will mean disaster for you! Keep the vehicle in it's lowest gear and let the engine do the work of braking for you. About 3/4 of the way down the hill when you think you have conquered it, the trail takes one more quick, even steeper decline before leveling out across the ridge.
8: Second Descent (5.9mi)
Don't be fooled and assume there was only one descent from the top, you still have one more steep descent to tangle with. Good news, you have already conquered one descent. Bad news, this one is a bit steeper than the previous one. But more good news, it's a lot shorter in length!!
9: Merge with Webster Pass (6.5mi)
Congratulations! You have completed Red Cone! You are now at the top of Webster Pass and need to decide whether to go downhill towards the left, which will take you down the South side of Webster Pass and back to highway 285, where you came from. Or you can go right which will lead you north to the towns of Montezuma and Keystone.
It is not uncommon for the south side of Webster Pass to be impassable by snow till late July or early August.
Red Cone is a high alpine trail that begins to see snow in October or November. The trail is impassable to 4x4 vehicles during the winter months and should only be traversed by over the snow vehicles. Red Cone is seasonally closed during the Spring run-off season to prevent excess erosion. Exact closing and opening dates can vary from year-to-year depending on conditions, but according to the MVUM it is typically closed April 1st-June 30th.
Camping and Lodging
On Red Cone itself, there is not much dispersed camping. However, you can find a lot of dispersed camping along nearby roads such as Webster Pass.
Questions & AnswersNo questions have been submitted.
Offroaded on 10-15-2017
Status: Partially Open
Snow condition update: Multiple reports from this weekend confirm the trail is no longer passable beyond waypoint 5.
The seasonal gate does not close till spring, but travel along the trail is not recommended.
Offroaded on 09-30-2017
Low Temperature: 32° F
High Temperature: 45° F
Decided to do Red Cone with my friend Brian in my 1986 Toyota 4Runner. The trail was wet, and there was a good bit of snow as we got higher. Then it started to snow pretty hard. We hit a really muddy patch on a right hand switchback with big rocks in it. I tried to power through that section and took out my left front turn signal and damaged my fender and bumper pretty good on a tree, coming to an abrupt halt. When I tried to back up, the right rear tire got in a deep pit and the 4Runner started to tip right and backward. The left front tire was several feet in the air. Brian jumped out to take weight off the right side, then jumped on the hood and scrambled to the left front corner. That teetered the truck part of the way to level and got me enough purchase to move a bit and alleviate the impending rollover.
A Jeep pulled up (thanks Alex and Ryan). We cobbled together my come along, my chain, their chain, and their tree strap. After some trying we got moving again. However, the right rear tire now had a damaged valve stem and was losing air quickly. Using the original equipment bottle jack was difficult, but we eventually got the spare tire on.
We were pretty far up at that point, and it was getting late in the afternoon. I thought it best to turn around because of the sloppy conditions on the trail and the possible (probable) slippery nature of the descent down Red Cone. The Jeep guys advised me that in point of time continuing on over Red Cone and back down Webster Pass was probably the same without having to go through the really rutted out boulders that we bottomed out and high centered on a few times coming up.
We got to tree line. Their plan was to have us follow them to the top, where they would walk a bit down the descent to see how it was. We watched them slip and slide and get high centered going up the sloppy climb above tree line to the ridge on top and realized we would not make it to the top. They dislodged their Jeep and disappeared over the top. We gave the Jeep about ten minutes and turned around to head back down the way we came up, assuming they decided to continue. It was very windy and cold with snow.
Now after sunset and getting dark quickly, we struggled taking the 4Runner back down through rocks that were much more exposed than normal from trail wear during the rain and snow this past week. Eventually the Jeep guys caught up with us coming back downhill. Their story--not ours--was that at the very top there was 6 inches of snow, it was 32°F, and blowing 80 mph. Not sure how they know that last figure, but the passenger said he was unable to open his door against the wind when they got near the edge of the descent.
They did show us a video on their phone of the last time they could exit the vehicle nearing the top. It was clear from the snow depth and blizzard conditions in that video that going down the Red Cone descent had a low probability of successful outcome.
On the way back down to 285 my left rear bumper got caught in the mud on a tight canted left hairpin turn. That corner of the bumper slowly twisted itself apart as it acted like a keel or drag anchor guiding me through the turn. It damaged the vehicle, but it did help keep us in the turn.
Lessons learned include knowing that the weather is to be respected, stay off sloppy trails, snow and Red Cone do not mix, just because someone else suggests you continue does not make it true, and ego can get your vehicle damaged and endanger your life. That seems like enough lessons for one day.
Damage report includes left front bumper, left rear bumper, left front fender, left front turn signal, one tire off the bead, a new squeal/whistle possibly from the differential, and unknown damage to the bottom of the vehicle from rock impacts.
In all, a pretty fun day that turned out a lot better than it could have.
Offroaded on 08-06-2017
Conditions: Partially Cloudy
Low Temperature: 60° F
High Temperature: 62° F
Wonderful trip over Red Cone! It had been over 15 years since I last drove this trail. It seems like there has been quite a bit of errosion that was not evident the last time I was here... Our trail run was done with fellow members of the Colorado FJ Cruiser club. There were about 16 rigs on our run. We always like doing runs with this group as everyone is patient and helpful on some of the difficult portions of this trail. The views up top of Red Cone are amazing to say the least. This is one of my favorite trails in Colorado. I strongly recommend!
Offroaded on 07-30-2017
The plan was to hit Red Cone for sunrise and then continue on to Webster Pass to Radical Hill. From Radical Hill we would take Deer Creek to Saint John then finishing on North Fork Swan River leading us back down to Breckenridge. Starting at 4:30 am we were able to be on Red Cone for sunrise and beat all the crowds for the remainder of the trails.
Offroaded on 06-27-2017
Thanks to the hardworking folks from Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Red Cone will officially open for the season today. This past weekend was a work weekend spent installing new signage, removing tree debris, picking up trash, and clearing snow. Please note that you have to exit via Webster Pass into Montezuma. Webster is not yet clear to return back to 285.
Offroaded on 04-15-2017
The seasonal gate on Red Cone is closed for the season. The trail is adopted by the Mile-Hi Jeep Club and anticipates the opening to be the weekend before 4th of July.
Offroaded on 10-02-2016
Conditions: Partially Cloudy
Low Temperature: 53° F
High Temperature: 72° F
Great trail, heading up through the trees and then above the tree line, to s steep climb and steeper decent on the other side of the Red Cone. A fall day with lots of colors in the trees and likely the one of the last weekends the trail will be open this year. Continue on to Radical Hill for a little more challenge with off camber short section of shelf road and a narrow area with just enough room for a Jeep to pass.
Offroaded on 07-04-2016
Low Temperature: 60° F
High Temperature: 80° F
Decided to celebrate July 4th with a quick run over Red Cone Pass. We left town around 7:30 AM to hit the trailhead just about 8:45. Brought the dogs and the ladies to enjoy the views. Hall Valley Campground was packed, and Webster Pass was still closed. As we got to the summit it was evident why. The cornice at the top of Webster (very last switchback) was still about 30' deep. Red Cone Pass was dry and had some recent trimming done, making for a very easy accent to the top. We didn't encounter any other people on Red Cone until reaching the junction of Webster and Red Cone, where we found a lone mountain biker. We ate lunch on the summit of red cone where we had the pleasure of seeing 3 mountain goats that were curious what we were doing but not so interested in my dogs. I was amazed at how mellow the decent from the top was. We went down the Montezuma side where the river crossing was around 30" at the deepest point. A young group of campers approached at the crossing and asked if we had and jumper cables. We landed a quick hand to get this groups up and running again. It was around 2:00 when we made it to Montezuma to air up.