Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Looking back at the ridge during the scramble to the top

Humboldt Peak (14,064′), Sangre de Cristo Range

Humboldt Peak is part of the Crestones in the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Crestones are a cluster of 14,000′ peaks comprising Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Point, Humboldt Peak, and Columbia Point. Humboldt Peak is the least difficult (a difficult Class 2). The rest of the Crestone Group is Class 3, 4, and 5 climbing.

As the trail winds up Humboldt Peak you pass the South Colony Lakes, the most popular back country camping site in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

  • Trailhead: Upper or lower South Colony Lakes Trail
  • Round trip: Upper TH (high clearance vehicles) – 13 miles / 21 km
  • Lower TH ( passenger cars) – 18.5 miles / 30 km
  • Elevation: Upper TH 9,950′ – 14,064′ (4,114′) / 3,033m – 4,287m (1,254m)
  • Lower TH 8,800′ – 14,064′ (5,264′) / 2,682m – 4,287m (1,605m)

Elevation Map   (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

The trail climbs the peak from the South Colony Lakes basin, accessed from the east side of the range. This basin is a popular site that is also the base for most climbs of Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. You start the hike on a very rugged four-wheel drive road that was closed in 2009 as it follows the South Colony drainage.

Once near the lakes there will be Forest Service signs providing information on the area. Going NW (Humboldt Peak cutoff trail) at the junction, takes you to the Upper South Colony Lake.

The trail climbs steeply to the ridge from the upper lake. Once on the ridge stay to the center for the safest scramble to the summit. The northern side is treacherous with a steep drop for most of the remaining route.

Once on the false summit, head to the northeast to the true summit along large talus.

Trailhead Directions

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Mt Antero (14,269′) and Mt White (13,667′), Sawatch Range

Mt Antero (14,269′) and Mt White (13,667′), Sawatch Range

At 13,800" looking at the summit of Mt Antero

Mt Antero (14,269′) and Mt White (13,667′), Sawatch Range

Mt Antero is one of only a handful of 14,000′ peaks that has a road that travels to within a short distance of the summit.  The road up the mountain is difficult, rough and rocky, requiring four-wheel drive, eventually topping out at 13,800′. From the end of the road at point 13,800 it’s a 1/2 mile and 470′ scramble to the summit.

In 1881, a Salida man by the name of Nelson Wanemaker discovered gems high on Mt Antero. His discovery was publicized a few years later, and the mountain became a famous collecting area for aquamarine, phenacite, fluorite, topaz, and smoky quartz crystals. It has the highest concentration of these minerals anywhere in the US. With findings far above timberline, this is the highest known gem field in the lower 48.

The Sawatch Mountain Range is home to fourteen other 14,000′ peaks, such as Huron Peak, La Plata Peak, Missouri Mountain, and the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Elbert.

Destination: Mt Antero to 13,800′
Rating: Difficult
4×4 Road: 277, 278, 278A
Round trip: 18.8 miles / 30.3 km (Mt Antero and Mt White)
Elevation: 9,400′ – 13,800′ (+4,400′)/ 2,865m – 4,206m (+1,341m)

GPS Route with Elevation

From the end of the very steep road at 13,800′, it’s a 1/2 mile and 470′ climb to the 14,269′ summit of Mt Antero

Video Tour

Route Directions

Turn onto #277 jeep road (Baldwin Gultch) and drive 3 miles to a road junction at 10,850′. Turn left on the #278 road and cross Baldwin Creek.

Continue another mile to tree line as it climb’s Mt Antero’s west slopes. Stay left on 278A at the next 2 junction’s, reaching 13,200′.

From 13,200′ to 13,800′, the road becomes extremely steep with hairpin
switchbacks. You may want to consider parking here as most vehicles
wont make it. Continue up the steep south side to reach the end of the road, Point 13,800′.

Trailhead Directions

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

Just above treeline

La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range

La Plata Peak is known for it’s distinctive Ellingwood Ridge, and is one of the highest 14,000′ peaks in Colorado. Traverseing the Southwest Ridge route, with Huron Peak and the Three Apostles providing a backdrop, makes for stunning scenery. 

“La Plata” is Spanish for “The Silver”, a reference to the many silver deposits in the area. You can find remnants of old mines along the trail.

The Sawatch Mountain Range is home to fourteen other 14,000′ peaks, such as Huron Peak, Mt Antero, Missouri Mountain, and the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Elbert.

Destination: La Plata Peak
Trailhead: West Winfield (Southwest Ridge)
Round trip: 8 miles / 12.9 km
Elevation: 10,778′ -14,336′ (3,558′)/ 3,285 m – 4,370 m (1,085 m)
County: Chaffee
Agency: U.S. Forest Service 
Nat’l Forest: San Isabel 

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

Note: The West Winfield trailhead is small and very hard to reach, even during dry conditions due to the rough 4X4 road.

Once at the trailhead head directly north and cross a small creek and turn west for a bit. Following the steep trail you reach treeline at about 12,000′. Here the elevation levels out and you navigate through a large bog overgrown with willows. Expect to get your boots muddy here. Past the bog, you can see the steep trail which climbs to the ridge. Be careful here because of the loose rock and lack of traction, especially on the way down. Once on the ridge, the trail turns northeast and traverses the cliffs you viewed all morning. The trail steepens considerably again and gains 1,000′ in a very short distance, boulder hopping all the way to the top of the ridge. Once on the ridge, continue climbing over two false summits. The trail joins the Northwest Slopes standard route (#1474) for the last 20 feet to the summit of La Plata Peak.

Trailhead Directions

Longs Peak (14,255′), Front Range

Longs Peak (14,255′), Front Range

Alpenglow on the Keyhole

Longs Peak (14,255′), Front Range

Iconic Longs Peak (14,259′) is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the northern most 14,000′ peak in the Rocky Mountains.

The peak is guarded by granite cliffs and does require Class 3 climbing, although the first 6.5 miles before the Keyhole are Class 2. Stepping through the Keyhole is an exhilarating experience, with thousand foot drop offs and endless views.

Destination: Longs Peak
Trailhead: East Longs Peak
Round trip: 14.5 miles / 23.3 km
Elevation: 9,400′-14,255′ (+5,100′) / 2,865m – 4,345m

County: Larimer
Agency: National Park System
Nat’l Park: Rocky Mountain

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

There are many spectacular ways to summit Long’s Peak, and this description highlights the “standard” Keyhole Route. The route has two sides to it, a long approach with a little scramble to the keyhole, and from the keyhole to the summit which is rated as a Class 3 Grade 3 scramble/climb.

The standard route on Longs Peak is called the Keyhole route and it is usually done in one very long day. It is the route described below.

From the East Longs Peak trailhead follow the well maintained trail through pine forests. You reach a trail junction to Eugenia Mine Trail/Storm Pass after 0.45 miles. Continue straight along the East Longs Peak trail as it turns southwest through dense forest, gaining elevation through steep switchbacks. As the trail turns west, you pass through Goblins Forest, 1.1 miles in, and cross small creeks before climbing more switchbacks. As you approach treeline, you cross beautiful Alpine Brook on a well maintained footbridge, 1.85 miles in.

Leaving Alpine Brook the trail travels south through krummholtz and provides beautiful views of Twin Sisters Peaks to the east. The trail eventually leaves the low growth stands of krummholtz behind and enters alpine tundra, providing spectacular views of Longs Peak Diamond, a 1,000′ sheer cliff. The trail moderately climbs until it reaches Jims Grove Trail Junction, and then turns southwest along the basin until it arrives at Mills Moraine.

Here, there is a trail junction with Chasm Lake 3.25 miles in. Continue to follow the the East Longs Peak trail as it turns northwest going around to the east of Mt Lady Washington, climbing to Granite Pass, 4.3 miles in. At a trail junction on Granite Pass, the North Longs Peak Trail merges from the north. Continue on the East Longs Peak trail as it swings southwest along switchbacks and eventually enters the Boulderfield at the base of Long’s north face, where the East Longs Peak trail ends at a campsite area 5.9 miles in.

From the end of the East Longs Peak trail, the next destination is the Keyhole (.4 miles) to the southwest across the Boulderfield. The Keyhole is a weakness in the ridge between Longs Peak and Storm Peak, providing the only non-technical passage to the west side of the mountain along this route.

Scramble across large granite boulders until close to the keyhole, where the last 100 yards become increasingly steep. The Keyhole is a striking rock feature with a large overhang and a rock shelter built along the southeast side. Stepping through the Keyhole is one of the major highlights of the trip. The spectacular Glacier Gorge with its beautiful lakes and 13,000′ peaks come into view along with a 3,000′ drop. The exposure feels big, and some decide that the Keyhole is far enough. Knowing when to stop is honored wisdom. The way forward from here is much more rugged and dangerous than what has been encountered so far, and marked only with bullseyes.

Once across the Keyhole, turn immediately to the (left) and locate “The Ledges” (0.4 miles, 120′ elev. gain), a horizontal route marked by red and yellow bullseyes. The Ledges gradually head south, up and down over the tops of massive slabs of granite that rise from the side of the mountain. There is a v-shaped notch between boulders, with an iron rod as an aid through the most difficult section.

Next, the Trough (0.3 miles, 600′ elev. gain) consists of steep, rock-filled gully. At the top there is a large boulder jammed between the walls of the Trough as it narrows, blocking the route. Getting around it is one of the most difficult parts of the route.

At the top of the Trough there is a rock shelf called The Narrows (0.2 miles, 120′ elevation gain) providing a route across the near shear south face of the mountain. The ledge is fairly narrow initially, giving this portion of the route its name.

The Homestretch (0.2 miles, 280′ elev. gain) is the last obstacle to the summit, and consists of mostly smooth exposed granite, steep enough to require scrambling on all fours. It is climbed north-northeast to the top of the mountain. A large cairn marks the gateway to the top. The large flat summit is covered with rough talus. Enjoy the incredible views!

Trailhead Directions

Mt Evans (14,264′), Front Range

Mt Evans (14,264′), Front Range

Summit Lake

Mt Evans (14,264′), Front Range

Mt Evans can be accessed via the highest paved road in North America, reaching an elevation of 14,130′. The Mount Evans Scenic Byway, maintained by the Forest Service, offers easy access to Colorado’s inspiring high mountain environment. A drive up and short walk to the top of Mt Evans will take your breath away in more ways than one.

From Mt Evans you will see another 14,000′ peak in close proximity, Mt Bierstadt (14,160′).

Destination: Mt Evans
Trailhead: Mt Evans summit parking Lot
Round trip: .25 miles / .4 km hike (14 miles /22.5 km scenic drive)
Elevation: 14,130′-14,264′ (+134′) / 4,307m – 4,348m (+41m)
County: Clear Creek
Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Nat’l Wilderness: Mt Evans

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

Road closed in 2020 due to pandemic

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

Follow the only paved road, Hwy 5,  14 miles to summit parking lot. Once there, take a short 1/4 mile hike and you will be standing on the summit!

Trailhead Directions

Mt Sneffels (14,150′), San Juan Range

Mt Sneffels (14,150′), San Juan Range

Hopes of clearing weather, instead it was getting thicker

Mt Sneffels (14,150′), San Juan Range

Mt Sneffels is the second highest summit in the San Juan mountains and known as the “Queen of the San Juans”. Mt Sneffels is situated in the Mt Sneffels Wilderness of the Uncompahgre National Forest. There are only 15 miles of constructed trails in the 16,587 acre wilderness, making it truly wild.

Starting at the upper trailhead involves a rough road accessible with a 4WD vehicle. The lower trailhead is more accessible to 2WD vehicles, 1.25 miles below the upper trailhead.

The San Juan Range is home to world class outdoor recreation. American Basin, California & Hurricane Pass, and Stony Pass are a couple of examples of the natural beauty of the area.

Destination: Mt Sneffels
Trailhead: Yankee Boy Basin upper trailhead
Round trip: 2.5 miles / 4km
Elevation: 12,460′ – 14,150′ +1,690′ / 3,797m – 4,310m +513m

County: San Juan
Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Nat’l Forest: Uncompahgre
Nat’l Wilderness: Mt Sneffels

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

The route description follows the standard route via Lavender Couloir.

From the Yankee Boy upper trailhead follow the trail until you reach the Blue Lakes Trail junction. Head right at the junction, hiking up a low-grade rocky trail before turning right up a steep gully. Continue for around 500 ft vertical gain up the loose dirt/gravel on unclear trail. Despite its grade, there are no switchbacks here, so this bit is brutal.

Reach a saddle at 13,500 ft, and turn left up Lavender Couloir. This gully is of similar grade but composed primarily if larger talus blocks. It funnels hikers up to just below 14,000 ft. This part of the mountain is fairly shaded, so the top if often full of snow into July. As the gully narrows and becomes cliffed out near the top, angle to the left, and pass through a V-notch (the most difficult part). Continue along a vague trail, angling up and to the right. The summit is only about 100 ft up and is clear from this point. Hike up along some solid rock to reach the summit.

Trailhead Directions