Music Mountain in Colorado Might Be the Best Secret Scrambling Route in Colorado

Last Updated on May 3, 2024 by foxintheforest

Sticky granite and high-flying exposure sound like your idea of a good time. Then look no further than Music Mountain in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

I’ve long been on the hunt for the perfect peak here in Colorado – I’ve summited over 70. And Music Mountain is the top contender when it comes to sheer fun.

Many people don’t know about the Southern Ridge of this stunning peak, but that’s because the 14ers.com route description calls this a snowclimb. It’s not. Unlike most snow climbs, you can actually do this when it’s snow-free – in fact, I’d prefer it.

I’ve been scrambling peaks for over a decade here in Colorado, so you can be rest assured you’re getting top-notch tips for this stunning peak.

How Difficult is Music Mountain?

Music Mountain is a highly-exposed class 4 13er in the Sangre de Cristo Range. This means you’ll for sure be using your hands – scrambling over insanely exposed (think several hundred-foot drops). In terms of non-roped routes, this one has some real exposure – more than most of the Colorado 14ers.

For a quick comparison, I found the exposure to be similar to the final pitch of the Crestone Traverse, but a bit longer with more than one section with extreme exposure.

You’ll also want to know how to route find. This mountain has no trail or markers past Lower Sand Creek Lake, so understanding how to read the terrain is extremely important. However, there are no crazy, convoluted puzzles to solve and the route reveals itself as you go on.

It’s one of the spicier scrambles I’ve done, but not the sketchiest or most convoluted. Exposure will be your biggest hurdle followed by the descent, which feels really insecure.

A woman climbing music mountain in colorado on exposed rock near the summit.

Practical Info

Here’s a look at a few quick data points to get you oriented. We didn’t do Tiejeras Peak (it just looked too tedious) so this data doesn’t include that peak. A lot of people add both – I would add around 800 feet of gain (and loss) as well as 1.5-2 miles round trip if you plan to bag nearby Tiejeras too.

We did start from the trailhead and did this route in a day.

Round Trip Distance: 10.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,370 feet of gain
Difficulty: Exposed class 4
Estimated time: It took us around 7 hours but most people will want to budget 8-9
Highlights: sticky, solid granite, not a lot of loose rock. Stellar scenery
Lowlights: Willow bashing, steep grass walking, loose dirt/grass/unstable rock descent.
Red Tape: 4WD with high clearance is required to reach the trailhead. Not dog-friendly.
Special gear: GPS, helmet, and approach shoes were helpful

A tall granite moutain called teijeras peak with a smaller music mountain next to it reflecting off of lower sand creek lake.

Reaching the Trailhead

The starting point for Music Mountain is at the Music Pass Trailhead. Like a lot of trails in the Sangres, you’ll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead. Otherwise, you’ll add another 6 miles round-trip of road walking to your journey.

Follow Music Pass Road until you reach the Grape Creek Trail. From here it’s a narrow 4×4 road for another 3 miles to where the road ends and the Music Pass Trailhead is.

Local Tip: There is excellent camping about 3-5 minutes from the trailhead. You’ll spot a small pullout and a clearing with flat terrain to pitch a tent. The views are lovely. We were even greeted by an owl in the morning.

A tent at the camping near music pass trailhead in the sangre de cristo mountains
Our sweet little campsite delivered a solid sunset.

Music Pass to Sand Lake

The trail starts up an old logging road. Your objective is to hike to the top of Music Pass. From here, the road gives way to a nice trial. Follow the trail down the pass into a valley. At a junction, turn right, following the way across the creek towards Lower Sand Creek Lake.

There will be another junction that’s signed – you want to head uphill to Lower Sand Creek Lake. You’ll go through some treed switchbacks until the trail peters out right at the lake.

Local Tip: You can backpack here or at Sand Creek, but the mosquitoes can be a little fierce (standard for the Sangres). We had friends who backpacked here – as they were doing the peak the day after us – and had a lovely time!

A man standing at the top of Music Pass during sunrise.

Reaching the Base of the Climb

Take a break at the lake, and admire the reflection of Tiejaras (on the left) and Music Mountain (right). Now the real journey begins.

First, work your way around the lake on the right side. There is an intermittent climber’s trail, but it’s not all that great. Expect tall grass and some wandering through downed trees.

Work your way up and around the lake.

Once the trees start to give way, you’ll see the greater basin in front of you. You’re aiming for a weakness in the cliff band. There are supposedly two, but the one further left looked more obvious and was easily recognizable.

The first cliff band on Music Mountain and Tiejeras Peak.
The left-trending shadow in the dihedral in the middle-left of this photo is the easier of the two gullies.

We cleared the trees only to be confronted by steep and obnoxious willow bashing. Take the path of least resistance – which still isn’t particularly great. We had to backtrack a little here, so pick your line carefully.

Once you reach the base of the cliff band take note of the weather – it would be a sketchy descent and the “anchor” in the rock weakness is terrible in a did-a-wild-canonyeer-build-this kind of way.

A climbing anchor on Music Mountain.
This is NOT an anchor I’d trust my life on. If you don’t understand why this is incorrect (a microwave-sized boulder stacked on top of webbing isn’t safe), you shouldn’t be using ropes on this route.

Local Tip: Ropes are insanely unnecessary on this route and would provide more of a hindrance than a help.

The gully goes at around class 3, with the start being the roughest part. We climbed the far left, as the rock looked more secure here. It eases off as you ascend.

From here, you have a long, steep, grassy walk in front of you. You can head to Tiejeras from here, although it just looks like a sloggy climb up dumpster-looking gullies with plenty of meh terrain.

A woman walking up a steep, grassy slope in the mountains.
Grass walking. Best not to think about it.

Work your way up to the ridge proper and head towards Music Mountain.

Scrambling Music Mountain

Coming at the South Ridge of Music Mountain was so intimidating. I’m an alpine climber, and this LOOKED like a 5.8 overhung trad route head on.

Music Mountain's South Ridge in the background with a woman staring at it in the foreground.
The peak in the background is what Music Mountain looks like head-on. It goes boys.

My partner and I had a little moment here. We have a young daughter at home and we were both pretty nervous. What if something unexpected happened to us? What would happen to her?

In that moment the reality of how mountain climbing had changed since becoming parents really hit us.

We collected ourselves and pushed forward. Up honestly looked safer than going back down the suss gully we came up.

The route generally follows the ridge proper. As you work your way up, the route reveals itself. It starts to look less like a trad climb, and more like a super fun, exposed scramble.

The floor drops out below you on a few sections and the air will give you some butterflies for sure!

A woman scrambling on music mountain in colorado during the day.
Some of the best sections of scrambling. Delicious air and fun await you!

There are two main cruxes. The first is when you have to step around the ridge proper and the floor drops out. The second is a boulder-y starting move over exposed terrain.

But with stable rock and plenty of holds – it’s a rockin’ good time!

A man scrambling up Music Mountain in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
The bouldery crux is in the foreground here. It’s one committing move.

Eventually, you’ll reach the first of 3 summits. This one is the easiest to take a break at. We enjoyed some snacks (and twerking – I dance at the top of every summit). My partner wasn’t feeling the other 2 summits, but I scampered over there via a spicy knife edge.

You can bypass this, but this was a direct and fun way to reach the final summit. I measured the last summit to be the highest by just 2 feet – so if you are a stickler for that sort of thing, that one is the tallest. But honestly, you do you! There’s no wrong way to climb.

The Descent

Getting to the top of Music Mountain is half the battle. The standard descent is via the East “Ridge” (in quotes here cuz it’s more like a very wide, but steep ramp).

From the first summit, work your way down the impossibly steep east side. Pick the path of least resistance through intermittent grassy nubbins, loose rock, and dirt.

There are a few places where this was a hairy, sketchy experience. But whenever we looked around we could find something a little bit easier to work our way down to.

It was a vibe change from the South Ridge and the tough parts aren’t over, so save some reserves here.

You’ll eventually aim for a grassy gully. This gully takes you back to the intermittent climber’s trail and back to Lower Sand Creek Lake.

A woman descending the east ridge of Music Mountain.
Can you spot me amongst the steep awful?

Final Thoughts

Despite several challenges to reach the good stuff, I loved this route. It’s got a little bit of everything. Nothing is so tedious and awful that it ruins the fun. Right at about the point you’re over an obstacle (looking at you steep willows) it eases off and changes.

This certainly is NOT a beginner scrambling route – in fact, I’d argue it’s pretty advanced. You need a good head game, and there are points of no return.

But if you’re after some type 2 fun in the mountains, the Sangres always have a few secrets to share. Music Mountain certainly delivers on the fun factor.

Quick Safety Tips

Scrambling in the mountains is risky business. Keep these safety tips in mind while you plan your route:

Watch the weather. Use a tool like weather.gov to plan your day. Thunderstorms plague the mountains every afternoon in the summer.

Always wear a helmet. Even though the rock is solid, accidents happen. A helmet can be the reason you live or die on a scrambling route.

Bring sun protection. This route is largely exposed, including the approach trail.

Bug protection. The mosquitos here were not kind. Come prepared!

Be prepared to turn around. It’s okay if it’s not your day. There are so many things we can’t control in the mountains. No summit is worth your life. The mountain will always be there.

Additional Secret Colorado Peaks to Check Out for Tons of Type 2 Fun

Looking for more secret mountains in Colorado? Here are a few of my favorite technical routes in the mountains.

Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.