Alberta Peak is a mountain along the Continental Divide in Colorado. It is located in the Rio Grande National Forest near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At 11,840 feet, it provides spectacular views of the San Juan mountains. The hike to the top is relatively easy for the views the summit provides.

Alberta Peak trail along the ridge with a dog in the background
Alberta Peak trail

The Hike

The round-trip hike is 6 miles, with a total elevation change of about 1,000 feet.

The map below shows the area of the trail. You can can click on the map or here to go to the interactive version of the map on the USFS website.

USFS map of the Alberta Peak Trail
US Forest Service map of the Alberta Peak Trail (#813)

The trail (FS trail #813) starts at Wolf Creek Pass (10,856 feet) and ends at the top of Alberta Peak at 11,840 feet.

Continental Divide Trail

You will be hiking on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) for most of the hike and will be in the Wolf Creek Ski Area for much of the trail.

Continental divide sign near alberta peak
Continental Divide Sign on trail

The CDT is a long-distance hiking trail that spans across the United States from Mexico to Canada.

The trail follows the Continental Divide, which separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

The CDT stretches approximately 3,100 miles and passes through five states: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

Trailhead for the Alberta Peak Trail

The start of the hike is at the Wolf Creek Continental Divide sign along Hwy 160.

Wolf Creek Pass Continental Divide sign
Continental Divide Sign at Wolf Creek Pass (Photo: Granger Meador, CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)

There is plenty of parking available at the start of the trailhead.

Once at the Continental Divide sign, follow the trail that goes to the left behind the sign. You will go through a small meadow.

You will cross a small bridge at the end of the meadow. At this point, the trail splits. Take the path to the left.

Switchbacks

Once you cross the bridge, you will be going through a conifer forest. You will be in the shade most of this part of the hike.

Switchback trail
Switchbacks on trail

You will go up a series of switchbacks until you get to the ridge at the top.

The switchbacks aren’t particularly difficult, but they are constantly uphill for the first 1 ½ miles.

You’ll hike up about 800 feet. But once you get past the first 1 ½ miles, the trail will flatten out.

Hike through the trees
Flat section of Alberta Peak trail

Wildflowers and Mushrooms

If you are hiking the trail in the summer months, you are likely to see lots of wildflowers and possibly mushrooms along the trail.

The wildflowers attract butterflies and other insects. The photos below were taken along the trail.

butterflies on mountain wildflowers
Butterflies and wildflowers along trail
black and white butterflies on yellow flowers
Butterflies and wildflowers
black and white butterfly on daisy
More flowers and butterflies
black and white butterfly on daisy flower
Butterfly on a flower

If you come across mushrooms, do not assume they are edible. Most are not, and some are poisonous.

red mushrooms
Mushrooms along trail

Rocky Talus

As you near the top, you will pass by a rocky talus slope area.

snow on the talus
Rocky talus area

The snow here melts slower than in the other trail areas, so there’s usually snow there until well into June (or sometimes later).

Our dogs were having fun playing in the snow in this area.

YouTube video

Once you start seeing the ski lift chairs for Wolf Creek Ski Area, you are approaching the ridge of the mountains.

ski lift on a mountain
Bonanza Ski Lift

The Bonanza Ski Lift will be to your left on most of the hike.

It will start flattening out you will start getting some fabulous mountain views.

There is a Wolf Creek service road underneath the ski lift chairs that you can follow, but you will be off the actual trail. Both will lead to the same place – to the top of the mountain ridge.

Ridge

The actual Alberta Peak trail follows the Continental Divide Trail which stays to the right of the ridge and provides views of the East Fork Valley.

Continental Divide Trail sign on ridge
Continental Divide Trail sign on ridge
dog and man hiking on a trail
Trail goes through some dead trees

You will go through some forested areas and pass the intersection with the Treasure Mountain trail.

Continue along the ridge towards the summit which you will see at the end of the ridge. You will still be on the Continental Divide Trail here.

snow on alberta peak
Snow on Alberta Peak in June

There was still snow near the peak in June, but the Alberta Peak trail was clear.

trail along the ridge of Alberta Peak
Easy path to the summit of Alberta Peak

The trail is easy in this section and provides fabulous views in all directions.

YouTube video

This part of the trail will be in full sun and can be very windy. The views are fantastic.

view of the summit of Alberta Peak
Panoramic views

There are plenty of grassy areas where you can sit and have lunch and take in the view.

Looking towards Hwy 160, you will see the Alberta Reservoir, as well as the base of the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

Alberta Reservoir
Alberta Reservoir on the distance

On the other side of the ridge, you will be looking down into the East Fork Valley.

East Fork Valley

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of dead trees, but they are starting to grow back.

In the fall, the trees put on a good show.

dog overlooking mountain valley with fall colors
Fall colors from the ridge of Alberta Peak looking into the East Fork Valley

It gets really windy on the ridge, as you can hear in the video of the fall colors below.

YouTube video

Quartz Ridge Fire

We also saw the Quartz Ridge Fire in 2023 from up here.

wildfire smoke from the top of a mountain
Smoke from the Quartz Ridge Fire

The firefighters had it under control at this point. You can see the smoke coming up through the trees.

YouTube video

Summit of Alberta Peak

To get to the summit, you are going to need to scramble up some scree (loose rocks).

scree rocks to the top of alberta peak
Scree at the top of Alberta Peak

This is the most difficult part of the hike, but it does not require any technical skills.

Just choose your footing wisely so you don’t twist an ankle.

dog standing on the summit of alberta peak
View from the top of Alberta Peak summit

There isn’t a marked trail to the summit, so you will be making your own way up the final 100 feet of the hike. When you reach the top of the rocky area, you will be at the 11,840 feet Alberta Peak.

YouTube video

You will have panoramic views of the South San Juan Mountains and Weminuche Wilderness from the top of Alberta Peak.

Continental Divide Trail

The CDT continues around to the right of the summit. You can continue hiking the CDT for more fabulous views.

CDT sign with alberta peak summit in the background
Continental Divide Trail sign with Alberta Peak in the distance

Return

The Alberta Peak Trail is an out and back trail. To return to the parking area, turn around and go back the way you came. The trail on the way back is mostly downhill.

If you’re ready to hike even higher, check out the nearby hike to San Luis Peak which is over 14,000 feet.

Or if you’re tired after this hike, check out some natural hot springs along the Piedra River.

Notes About the Hike

A few notes about the hike:

  • Lightning danger: If you are hiking in the summer, there is a real threat of afternoon thunderstorms with lightning. You do not want to be caught up on the ridge if this happens. Plan to start the hike in the early morning so you can be off the mountain by about noon.
  • Dead trees: You will see a lot of dead pine trees due to beetle kill and other reasons. You’ll also see lots of new growth as the forest recovers.
  • Snow: Given the elevation of this hike (starting at 10,000+), the snow melts slower than down in the valley. Depending on when you hike the trail, there may still be snow on the ground in some parts of the trail.
  • Bathroom: There aren’t any facilities at the trailhead or elsewhere.

How to Get There

The Alberta Peak trail starts at the Wolf Creek Interpretive Site along Hwy 160. Click on the Google Map below to get the directions from your location.

Final Thoughts

The Alberta Peak trail is a relatively easy trail for the views you get at the top of Alberta Peak.

You may encounter hikers on the CDT who are hiking the entire 3,100 mile length of the CDT and usually have interesting things to tell you about their journey.

Enjoy the hike and the views!