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Sangre de Cristo Range
Northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Sangre de Cristo Range seen from Hardscrabble Pass.
Highest point
Peak Blanca Peak
Elevation 14,345 ft (4,372 m)
Length 75 mi (121 km) north-south
Width 48 mi (77 km) east-west
Area 1,250 sq mi (3,200 km2)
Etymology Sangre de Cristo Spanish: Blood of Christ
Sangre de Cristo Range is located in Colorado
Sangre de Cristo Range
Sangre de Cristo Range
Location in Colorado
Country United States
Parent range Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Rocky Mountains
Orogeny Fault-block mountains
Age of rock Precambrian and Permian-Pennsylvanian

The Sangre de Cristo Range is a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains in southern Colorado in the United States, running north and south along the east side of the Rio Grande Rift. The mountains extend southeast from Poncha Pass for about 75 mi (121 km) through south-central Colorado to La Veta Pass, approximately 20 mi (32 km) west of Walsenburg, and form a high ridge separating the San Luis Valley on the west from the watershed of the Arkansas River on the east. The Sangre de Cristo Range rises over 7,000 ft (2,100 m) above the valleys and plains to the west and northeast.

According to the USGS, the range is the northern part of the larger Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which extend through northern New Mexico. Usage of the terms "Sangre de Cristo Range" and "Sangre de Cristo Mountains" is varied; however, this article discusses only the mountains between Poncha Pass and La Veta Pass.

Notable peaks

Major peaks of the Sangre de Cristo
Named peaks over 13,500 feet (4,100 m)
Peak name Elevation Prominence
Blanca Peak 14,351 ft (4,374 m) &&&&&&&&&&&05326.&&&&&05,3265,326 ft (1,623 m)
Crestone Peak 14,300 ft (4,400 m) &&&&&&&&&&&04534.&&&&&04,5344,534 ft (1,382 m)
Crestone Needle 14,197 ft (4,327 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0437.&&&&&0437437 ft (133 m)
Kit Carson Peak 14,165 ft (4,317 m) &&&&&&&&&&&01005.&&&&&01,0051,005 ft (306 m)
Challenger Point 14,080 ft (4,290 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0281.&&&&&0281281 ft (86 m)
Humboldt Peak 14,064 ft (4,287 m) &&&&&&&&&&&01164.&&&&&01,1641,164 ft (355 m)
Ellingwood Point 14,042 ft (4,280 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0322.&&&&&0322322 ft (98 m)
Mount Lindsey 14,042 ft (4,280 m) &&&&&&&&&&&01522.&&&&&01,5221,522 ft (464 m)
Little Bear Peak 14,037 ft (4,278 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0357.&&&&&0357357 ft (109 m)
Columbia Point 13,960 ft (4,260 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0320.&&&&&0320320 ft (98 m)
Mount Adams 13,937 ft (4,248 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0851.&&&&&0851851 ft (259 m)
California Peak 13,855 ft (4,223 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0609.&&&&&0609609 ft (186 m)
Rito Alto Peak 13,800 ft (4,200 m) &&&&&&&&&&&01114.&&&&&01,1141,114 ft (340 m)
Colony Baldy 13,711 ft (4,179 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0905.&&&&&0905905 ft (276 m)
Pico Aislado 13,612 ft (4,149 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0837.&&&&&0837837 ft (255 m)
Tijeras Peak 13,610 ft (4,150 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0724.&&&&&0724724 ft (221 m)
Electric Peak 13,601 ft (4,146 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0915.&&&&&0915915 ft (279 m)
Cottonwood Peak 13,504 ft (4,116 m) &&&&&&&&&&&01108.&&&&&01,1081,108 ft (338 m)
Twin Peaks 13,560 ft (4,130 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0600.&&&&&0600600 ft (180 m)
Broken Hand Peak 13,579 ft (4,139 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0653.&&&&&0653653 ft (199 m)
Fluted Peak 13,560 ft (4,130 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0714.&&&&&0714714 ft (218 m)
Milwaukee Peak 13,528 ft (4,123 m) &&&&&&&&&&&&0282.&&&&&0282282 ft (86 m)


Seen from the San Luis Valley

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains run from Poncha Pass at the north end of the San Luis Valley to Glorieta Pass near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Most of the range is shared by two National Forests, which abut along the range divide. Most of the northeast (Arkansas River) side is located within the San Isabel National Forest, while most of the southwest (San Luis Valley) side is included in the Rio Grande National Forest. The central part of the range is designated as the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve sits on the southwestern flank of the range at the edge of the San Luis Valley. The range divide is traversed by no paved roads, only by four-wheel drive and foot trails over Hayden Pass, Hermit Pass, Music Pass, Medano Pass, and Mosca Pass.

Northern Sangre de Cristo Range seen from Coaldale, Colorado.

The highest peak in the range, located in the south, is Blanca Peak at 14,345 ft (4,372 m); it is flanked by three other fourteeners: Little Bear Peak, Mount Lindsey, and Ellingwood Point. Other well-known peaks are the fourteeners of the Crestone group: Kit Carson Mountain, Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, and Humboldt Peak. Two sub-peaks of Kit Carson Mountain, Challenger Point and Columbia Point, are named in memory of the crews of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the Space Shuttle Columbia. The range is also home to many high peaks in the 13,000 to 14,000 foot (3,900-4,300 m) range as it continues into New Mexico. In New Mexico most of the mountain area is managed by the US Forest Service in the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests.

History and economy

In 1719 the Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio named the Sangre de Cristo ("Blood of Christ") mountains after being impressed by the reddish hue of the snowy peaks at sunrise, alpenglow. Today tourism is the main economic activity.


The Colorado Sangre de Cristos are fault-block mountains similar to the Teton Range in Wyoming and the Wasatch Range in Utah. There are major fault lines running along both the east and west sides of the range and, in places, cutting through the range. Like all fault-block mountain ranges, the Sangre de Cristos lack foothills which means the highest peaks rise abruptly from the valleys to the east and west, rising 7,000 ft (2,100 m) in only a few miles in some places. The mountains were pushed up around 5 million years ago, basically as one large mass of rock. The Sangre de Cristo range is still being uplifted today as faults in the area remain active.

Dunes great sand 2
The Sangre de Cristo Range rising above the Great Sand Dunes National Park

On the west side is the San Luis Valley, a portion of the Rio Grande Rift. On the southeast side is the Raton Basin, a quiet but still active volcanic field. On the northeast side are the Wet Mountains and the Front Range, areas of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks formed during the Colorado orogeny some 1.7 billion years ago and then uplifted more recently during the Laramide orogeny.

The Blanca Massif is also Precambrian rock, while most of the rest of the Sangres is composed of younger Permian-Pennsylvanian (about 250-million-year-old) rock, a mix of sedimentary conglomerates, shales, and igneous intrusions. These sedimentary rocks originated as sediment eroded from the Ancestral Rocky Mountains.

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