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 Audubon (13,223′), Front Range

Mt Audubon (13,223′), Front Range

Mt Audubon 13,223'

Mt Audubon (13,223′), Front Range

Mt Audubon is the highest peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness that has an established trail nearly to the summit. It is located in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, about an hour outside of Boulder.

The great 360 degree view from the summit looks out over the mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the west, Rocky Mountain National Park to the north, and the Front Range and plains to the east. Beautiful alpine lakes like Mitchell and Blue Lake are scattered in the valleys.

Destination: Blue Lake
Trailhead: Beaver Creek Trail (at Mitchell Lake parking lot)
Round trip: 8 miles / 12.9 km
Elevation: 10,350′ – 13,223′ (2,873′) / 3,155m – 4,030m (875m)

Mountain Range: Front Range
County: Boulder
Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Nat’l Forest: Roosevelt 
Nat’l Wilderness: Indian Peaks

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

The Beaver Creek Trail enters the Indian Peaks Wilderness and climbs through the trees for 1.7 miles. At the first junction head west (left) onto the Mount Audubon Trail as it heads west.

The Mount Audubon Trail continues climbing above timberline. The trail ends at the saddle where, there is a view down into the Coney Lake drainage. For the final half-mile, and 600 vertical feet, follow the rock cairns up the talus to the summit.

Trailhead Directions

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak (12,713')

Hallett Peak (12,713′), Front Range

Hallett Peak, viewed from east Rocky Mountain National Park, is distinctive with it’s slanted square structure towering over the landscape. As you near the summit however, the square melts away and you are left looking at a more traditional mountain silhouette.

Rising along the Continental Divide, Hallett Peak divides Chaos Canyon to the south and Tyndall Gorge to the north.

The route to the summit first traverses the summit of Flattop Mountain on a well maintained trail. The Arapaho Indians called the Flattop Mountain corridor “The Big Trail”.

The trail was formally constructed in 1925, was rehabilitated by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940, and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Destination: Hallett Peak
Trailhead: Bear Lake
Round trip: 10 miles / 16.1 km
Elevation: 9,475′ – 12,713′ (+3,238′)/ 2,888m – 3,875m (+987m)

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

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

From Bear Lake take the well maintained Flattop mountain trail to the summit of Flattop Mountain. No maintained trail reaches Hallett Peak, so cross the saddle above Tyndall Glacier and scramble up steep talus to the summit.

Trailhead Directions

Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite (4,403′), Eastern Plains

Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite (4,403′), Eastern Plains

Trail along Clark Canyon

Picket Wire Canyonlands Tracksite (4,403′), Eastern Plains

Picket Wire (Purgatoire) Canyonlands, in the Comanche National Grasslands, is home to the largest dinosaur track site in North America. 150 million years ago this area was part of a large shallow lake and was teaming with Brontosaurs and Allosaurs. As these massive beasts plodded along the muddy edge of this lake, they left their footprints in the mud, which were eventually buried and turned to stone. Today, over 1,300 of these footprints, extending a 1/4 mile, are exposed at the Picket Wire Canyonlands dinosaur track site.

Another interesting geological attraction on the Eastern Plains is Paint Mines Park, with it’s richly colored clay spires.

Destination: Dinasaur Track Site
Trailhead: Withers Canyon
Round trip: 10.8 miles / 17.4 km
Elevation: 4,403′ -4,153′ (-250′)/ 1,342m-1,265m (-77m)

County: Otero
Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Nat’l Grassland: Comanche

Ranger led vehicle access can be arranged in advance during certain times. Vehicle access does not traverse same trail.

GPS Route with Elevation

Video Tour

Trail Directions

There are no navigation issues with the trail. The reason for the difficulty rating is the distance.

Starting at the Withers Canyon Trailhead, the trail descends 250 feet into the canyons. Along the way you will encounter many ruins including the Dolores Mission and Cemetery. Many rocks above the trail have centuries old petroglyphs left behind by nomadic tribes.

Trailhead Directions

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

View of the dikes radiating out from the summit

West Spanish Peak (13,625′), Sangre de Cristo Range

West Spanish Peak (13,625′) and East Spanish Peak (12,684′) have world class geological features that made the two peaks a National Natural Landmark in 1976 and designated as a Wilderness Area in 2000. The peaks rise 6,000 ft from the edge of the eastern plains, and were used as a navigation aid for centuries for people heading west.

The Spanish Peaks are world class examples of “stocks” and “dikes”. Stocks are large masses of igneous (molten) rock which forced their way into seams of the sedimentary rock which eroded more quickly over time. East Peak is a nearly circular stock about 5.5 miles long by 3 miles wide while West Peak is a stock about 2.75 miles long by 1.75 miles wide.

The other structures, hundreds of dikes which radiate out from the two mountains, were formed in the same way, but instead of a large pool of molten rock, the magma filled cracks in the soft sedimentary layer. Erosion wore away the softer sedimentary rock leaving dikes (walls) of granite rock up to 100′ high, 100′ wide, and 14 miles long. This scenic combination of two stocks (West Spanish Peak and East Spanish Peak) and hundreds of unique dikes is second to none with it’s size, diversity and beauty.

While in the area, just a short drive west on Hwy 160, is another geological wonder, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Zapata Falls, which lies just outside the park, is also a favorite.

Destination: West Spanish Peak
Trailhead: West Peak Trail (Cordova Pass)
Round trip: 7.5 miles / 12 km
Elevation: 11,276′ -13,625′ (2,349′)/ 3,437 m – 4,153 m (716 m)

County:
Agency: U.S.
Nat’l Forest:
Nat’l Wilderness:

Elevation Map (select to enlarge)

GPS Route with Elevation

While the Spanish Peaks are categorized as belonging to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, the are not geologically part of a chain of mountains, having been formed independently by different processes.

Video Tour

Trail Directions

The trail is fairly level as it meanders through forests and meadows for about 2 miles (3.2 km) to treeline. At treeline there is a massive cairn signaling the beginning of the steep section of the trail. There is a rough path on talus (scree) up the southwest ridge of the peak for the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of steep climbing. When in doubt stay to the left and close to the ridge, the climbing is on more solid footing.

Gaining the false summit, the actual summit comes into view, not far away and on much more even terrain. There is a cairn and large branch on the summit.

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