W0C/SP-074 (Burntop) – 3379 m / 11085 ft

3379 m / 11085 ft
Sep 11, 2016


Burntop is a surprisingly fun sub-alpine SOTA peak in the northern Puma Hills, on the east side of South Park. The west side of the mountain and the summit ridge were burned by a forest fire many years ago.

Key Points:

Pike National Forest
• Burned area
• Good unmarked trail part of the way
• Relatively short, steep climb
• Great views of South Park and beyond
• Fine HF site
• ~ 2.7 miles round-trip
• ~ 1570 vertical feet

Driving Directions:

• Drive down 285, across Kenosha Pass, to Jefferson
• Turn south on Highway 77 and go about XX miles to Tarryall Reservoir
• Just past Tarryall Reservoir, turn right, west, on CR 23
• CR 23 is a bumpy 2WD dirt road
• Drive about 1.5 mile to a split in the road
• Turn left, south, on FR 144 into Packer Gulch
• FR 144 is a good 2WD dirt road if dry

• Drive south on FR-144 about 3.5 miles
• Look for Burntop on the left, east, side – the burn scar is obvious
• A left-right dog-leg in the road precedes the “trailhead” at 9520 feet
• A closed forest road will be visible at the second bend of the dog-leg, directly below Burntop – look for a fiberglass USFS marker
• Park here

The Climb:

• Hike up the closed road about 0.6 mile, first through a meadow, and then into the aspens – the road/trail gradually disappears.

• Climb left toward an obvious gully
• Near 9900 feet, cross the steep gully below the burned area, and start hiking up the steep burn scar
• Small game trails lead up through the dead trees and bushes

• Stay north of the gully, and hike ENE up to the ridge-top

• Turn north at the ridge-top
• Hike along the ridge through an open burned area, all the way to the top

• There are several large rock outcrops within the Activation Zone
• The summit has a jar with a register
• Google maps are OK for this area
• The Google satellite image is superb – it shows the dog-leg in the road, the trailhead, the closed road as far as it goes, the steep gully, the burn scar, and the summit area.

Additional Details:

The closed road provides a good route to this accessible SOTA peak. It’s “secret”, because it’s not shown on the Pike National Forest map, nor does it have a marked “trailhead”. It has no number, and its only marking is that it’s closed to motor vehicles. This old trail leads to the best place to cross the gully, in order to climb the burn scar.

The climb from the upper end of the road to the ridge-top south of the summit is only about 0.4 miles, but the vertical gain is 900 feet. The final ascent along the ridge is about 0.3 miles, with a vertical gain of about 280 feet. It’s sad that the fire burned up the mountain, but the open views near the top create an intense experience.

The pointed summit is small but spectacular. It’s perched at the craggy top of a very steep slope, and the views will take your breath away. A small cairn with a jar marks the peak.

The day I was there, it was a windy day, so I set up my radio gear in a sunny spot southeast of the peak. A few dead and live trees are available to support a pole or a wire.

I found a card from first-activator Steve WG0AT in the jar on the summit! What a pleasant surprise!

Burntop is almost an ideal SOTA peak. It’s prominent in all directions, and it’s radio quiet, with no development around the mountain. No higher mountains block HF skip signals significantly. The peak is probably a poor VHF/UHF site, with coverage limited to the northern part of South Park.

This peak can be combined with nearby Puma Peak W0C/SP-065 for a dual activation.

Dispersed camping is allowed in Packer Gulch – but it’s really busy there on nice weekends.

Be aware of hunters in the fall – wear bright orange.



ATTENTION !! WARNING !! There are old mountaineers, and bold mountaineers... there are no old-bold mountaineers. Hiking and mountain climbing are potentially hazardous activities particularly in Colorado with its extreme elevations. I am not accepting responsibility for any death or injury resulting from activations based on my trip reports. Proper training, experience, and personal capability assessment is required - enjoy!

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