username
X
password
register
for free!
help

The Best Hikes in San Isabel National Forest

159 Triplog Reviews in the San Isabel National Forest
Most recent of 67 deeper Triplog Reviews
8.4 mi • 4,531 ft aeg
After hiking Mount Harvard the day before, I was a bit tired when I got of bed early in the morning to do this hike. I though about calling the hike off, but I decided to endeavor to persevere.

This hike is about as straightforward as it gets: head south for 4 miles, gaining 4,500 of elevation in the process; then turn around and drop 4,500 feet of elevation in 4 miles on the return.

The "warm up" on this hike consisted of only gaining 950 feet of elevation in the first mile. After that, it starts to get steep. There were lots of short switchbacks in the last couple of miles which were helpful.

The hike was almost all class 1, with a bit of class 2 thrown in for good measure.

There were a few people out on the trails, but not many. I had the summit to myself.

The views were nice at the summit, so there was a decent payoff for the effort to get up there.
2.59 mi • 789 ft aeg
Spent the night at Trinidad Lake State Park and woke to breakfast with a beautiful lake view. Spent a little time exploring Trinidad and made the decision to take the long route back to Denver and hike at a higher elevation. Have to admit that I found this area more appealing than Trinidad and I fantasized about living here and hiking/snowshoeing my life away. But for now, I just did a quick climb to a stunning view. Great trail. Wish I'd had time to finish it.
10.69 mi • 5,187 ft aeg
When Sam and I went to Africa and hiked Kilimanjaro we met some great folks. There were nine in our group and we really bonded with all of them. Imagine spending 24 hours a day with people for 6 days and nobody can shower the whole time. Sounds bad but you really learn to appreciate each other. Two of the nine were from the United States in addition to us. It was Ellen (22) and her Grandfather (88) who is now officially the oldest verified person to ever summit Kilimanjaro. They happen to live in Vail Colorado so I was telling Ellen in Africa that I would love to come up and visit them sometime. She is getting ready to head off to Washington State to continue her education so we made a plan for me to come at the end of August. The plan was for me to stay with Grandpa and hike a 14er with Ellen and her dad Carl.

I have been wanting to do Longs Peak ever since reading Nick and Bob's triplogs a couple years ago. This was my first choice and Mount Holy Cross was second up. During the days leading up to my trip both Ellen and I watched the weather forecast. 80% chance of Rain and Thunderstorms on Longs. :o That and the long drive to get there from Vail made this one not very feasible. Holy Cross looked like a good option but then Ellen through out Mount Elbert. The highest Peak in Colorado. I told her I had heard it wasn't that difficult but that I would be down for whatever. She said her dad had been wanting to do it from the Black Cloud Trail. It is shorter and steeper than the other two primary routes. Sounds like a plan.

So I arrived late Wednesday night and we got up early and headed out at 5AM. After a quick breakfast in Leadville we were set to start hiking at 7AM. Up we went and it was indeed steep right from the start. Nothing unbearable but steep. Carl set a brisk pace. Once we crossed about 13,000 feet I began to get a little light headed. It was from pushing so hard and trying to keep up with Carl (her dad). This guy is a beast! He could literally run up the mountain if it weren't for us holding him back. I took a quick breather and then we were off again. This time I went at a more reasonable pace for the altitude and all was good. We reached the summit in about 3 hours. I'm pretty sure with some practice at these altitudes I could shave off a half hour. I am also pretty sure that I could never match Carl going up something like this. I should note that he is a tri-athlete and has swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco three times while doing the escape from Alcatraz event.

Up top we ran into several others that had come up the standard route. We hung out for a bit and took some photos and then headed back down the way we came. Then with about a mile to go the skies got real dark and started to thunder. Within seconds it was pouring down rain on us. We trotted along and got back to the truck just in a nick of time. Hail started to fall at a rapid rate. Their poor dog Wilbur was taking a beating in the back of the truck so Carl lowered the rear window and let him in.

That night I enjoyed some time with Grandpa back at the home watching the Broncos beat up on our Cardinals. This was a great quick getaway and it was awesome to see Ellen and her Granddad again!
489.7 mi • 91,103 ft aeg
Colorado Trail Thru Hike
From August 12 to September 5, I thru-hiked the Colorado Trail. :y:

The hike was split into five distinct phases, so I'll break this triplog into those sections then make additional comments afterwards

Waterton Canyon to Breckenridge
5 days, 104.1 miles, 17,612' AEG

(20.5 miles) I met a lot of people starting their thru-hike the first day. It was exciting to be starting my journey. The first six miles are along a service road and there were a lot of runners, cyclists, etc. on the trail. I saw and walked through a herd of bighorn sheep. I had dinner at the S. Platte river after a thunderstorm, then hiked a few more miles to camp. A couple I met earlier camped there too.

(22.4 miles) The second day started out finishing a section through a large burn area. Then I hiked a section of trail popular with the mountain bikers. It was a great section of trail but mostly in the forest.

(21.6 miles) The third day I ended up hiking with a couple people. First Larry from Texas, then Berno from Germany. Berno quit his job and has been hiking since February. He did Hayduke, Denali, GDT, etc. A big storm rolled in so we stopped a bit early to set up our shelters for the night.

(26.8 miles) Fourth day we hiked together until Jefferson Creek where the trail starts to climb to close to 12K' Berno is much stronger climbing than I. This climb was the first time the trail gets above tree line and the views were great!

(12.8 miles) Fifth day I had a short day into Breckenridge. First an uphill, then mostly down the rest of the way.

Breckenridge to Twin Lakes
4 days, 72.6 miles, ~15,000' AEG

(15.9 miles) Resupplied in the morning and was on trail 10. Very tough climb up and over the Ten Mile Range. That was the first time the trail exceeds 12K'. About 1/2 mile of trail was scorched from the Type 2 fire earlier this year. Breck Epic Mt. Bike race was on and I was following the cyclists and missed a turn. Went about a mile down the wrong trail before I figured that out.

(25.2 miles) Went over Searle Pass, then dropped down to Kokomo Pass, then a long descent to Camp Hale. There was a large herd of sheep past Searle Pass. Met David Fanning at camp. Last year he wrote, "Voices of the Colorado Trail." It's stories of CT hikers he interviewed on trail. It's a good read, check it out.

(22.5 miles) I felt tired today. Leapfrogged with David throughout the day. There was some tough climbs and part of the trail was flagged for the Leadville 100 race. At the top of one climb, people were setting up an aid station for the race. I passed by the trail up Mt. Massive. I was hoping to set myself up to climb Elbert tomorrow but didn't make it as far as I wanted.

(9.0 miles) I decided I was too tired to climb Elbert today so I just went into Twin Lakes. There was a trail crew working on the trail in one point. There was some nice views of Elbert and of Twin Lakes. I made it to Twin Lakes before noon, then hung out all day.

Twin Lakes to Monarch Pass (Salida)
4 days + zero day in Salida, 84.6 miles, ~20,000 AEG

(23.3 miles) First I walked around Twin Lakes. People suggested skipping that, that it would be hot and boring. I really liked that stretch of trail though. I got in the lake two different times. It was refreshing. The eclipse was today. I didn't have glasses to watch it with. I don't even know when it occurred; I couldn't tell. Everything was quiet for a bit, perhaps it was then. I took the Collegiate West alternate. The climb up Hope Pass was steep and hard. The Leadville 100 contestants raced up it yesterday. I can't imagine. It was nice to get beyond hope. :sl:

(16.0 miles) The day started out climbing Lake Ann Pass. It's another tough climb. I saw two people I met at Twin Lakes. They skipped going around the lake. I was tired today and never really got going. I took a 40 minute nap this afternoon. I had an early dinner, and then I called it a day early too. It actually was a good place to stop as there probably isn't a good place to camp for another 7 miles or so. I camped by a pond a couple miles below Cottonwood Pass.

(26.1 miles) Today was the best yet. It followed the divide for miles, most of it above tree line. The views were great. The trail is amazing. Miles of it through talus but the tread is made of crushed rock so it isn't too bad to walk on. I can't imagine the labor that went into creating this trail. I would have liked to stop earlier, but there was no place to camp and I finished in the dark. It sets me up for tomorrow though.

(19.2 miles) I had a sucky camp and my shelter was soaking wet this morning. It was damp for the first few miles. I had a few up and downs in the morning, then a good climb up onto the divide. It started hailing on my way up, and really started coming down hard once I was on the divide. The umbrella worked perfectly. It blocked the hail/ran and the wind. Once the sweat from the climb dried, I was comfortable. The trail was a bit confusing once I reached the ski area but I made it through without any wrong turns. I got ice cream at the Monarch Pass store and found a ride into Salida.

Monarch Pass to Spring Creek Pass (Lake City)
5 days, 101.2 miles, ~16,000 AEG

(23.4 miles) I found a ride to Monarch Pass in the motel parking lot and made it on trail by nine. I was worried I wouldn't get on trail until much later. There were a lot of Mt. bikers and some dirt bikers on the trail today as it was Saturday and is a favorite trail to ride. The terrain was fairly easy and I made good time.

(25.6 miles) Lots of forest and meadows today, cows too. Also had longer water carries but all under ten miles. I met three CT hikers at one water source and we hiked to the next source together, nine miles. I stopped and had dinner there, then hiked several more miles before stopping. Light rain setting up camp then for the next few hours.

(26.5 miles) If I wanted a 30 mile day, today would have been the day to do it. There was a lot of roads today and the walking was easy. There was more water than yesterday, so my pack was lighter. The day ended with several miles along the Cochetopa Creek. I had dinner near a stream but cows were slowly nearing me so I yelled at them. I found a collapsible lantern on the trail and was able to return it to the owners when I reached them later. they were happy to get the lantern back.

(20.2 miles) I saw a moose early on. It was in a pond just off the trail. I saw Heather "Anish" Anderson on her CT FKT attempt. We said our good mornings when we passed each other. I wish I got my picture with her. There were some hard climbs today. If I was going to do a 14er, today would have been the day as San Luis Peak is very accessible from the trail. One climb was really steep and I was short on water. It was nice not carrying the weight, but I really could have used it. I finished the day camping on Snow Mesa near a pond. This was my first night camping above 12K'.

(5.5 miles) I got a late start since I didn't have far to hike today. It got cold last night and my tarp was covered with frost. I enjoyed the walk across Snow Mesa.

Spring Creek Pass to Durango
6 days, 127.2 miles, 22,528' AEG

(18.5 miles) I hiked with Eric today. He stayed at the hostel and we both got a ride to the trailhead together. We made it much farther than I had hoped too. There was lots of spectacular views today and we passed the CT high point, 13,271'.

(21.8 miles) I went to put a shoe on to go pee last night and my foot wouldn't go in the shoe. I thought the sock was bunched so I straightened it and tried again. That didn't work so I figured the insole was out of whack. I stuck my hand in the shoe and felt something furry. I pulled my hand out and dropped the shoe. I think it was a pika. :o It rained last night and my tarp was all wet this morning. Today there was a lot of up and down, all of it above 12K', so it was a tough one. It was worth it though, so much eye candy today, the views were amazing! A big hailstorm blew in near the end of the day and the temperatures dropped a lot. I put my fleece hoody on so I could put my hands in the pocket to keep them warm.

(21.0 miles) The day started with a big descent to the Animas River. Eric took the train to Silverton for resupply. I waited for the train at the tracks but got impatient and continued. there was a climb up to Molas Pass but it wasn't too bad. I'm not sure if it was because the altitude was low enough I could breath instead of gasp or it wasn't so steep. I stopped at the Molas Lake campground to get some more food and ice cream. Yum. There was some more rain this afternoon but not too bad. It was raining when I set up camp and then it stormed for awhile.

(25.8 miles) A doe hung out at camp all last night. Wherever I'd pee, it would lick it up. I peed farther from my tarp than I normally would. Unlucky for me, but lucky for it, I had to get up and pee a lot. The storm stopped early enough during the night that everything was dry this morning. There were some good views on trail today along with a lot of forest. The forest seems to be much healthier since Molas Pass. I thought I was going slow this morning but I made really good time this afternoon. There was a hailstorm along the way. The hail stones were marble sized and made a lot of noise on my umbrella. I was able to stay dry, even with all the water on the trail. I'm really liking this umbrella. Supposedly there's a 22 mile dry section so I drank as much as I could at the last water source and filled up 3 liters (the most I can carry).

(26.6 miles) I slept good last night. It wasn't cold so that probably helped. Archery elk is in season and I saw several hunters out. The trail passed near a road and there was two trucks parked and two bucks by the trucks. One had a really nice rack. I laughed because the hunters probably have a deer tag too. I stopped to take a picture and just up the trail, I heard a crack, smash, and a snag fell right on the trail. I'm glad I stopped. :scared: The trail passed over the last ridges above 12K' today then dropped thousands of feet into a lush and deep canyon. I caught a hiker I met yesterday and we finished the day together about a mile up from the bottom of the canyon. There were two people finishing their hike camped at the bottom and then there are five of us finishing our hike camping together. It's funny how suddenly we all converge together.

(13.5 miles) I finished the trail today! :y: There was a short climb, maybe 600', then the rest of the day was pretty much descending. The trail went by a creek so I stopped and rinsed my shirt and wiped my face and body off. I don't want to be too stinky at the end. There was a part where the trail started looking a lot like Arizona with Ponderosa Pine and scrub Oak. I was a bit nostalgic finishing the hike. I was excited to be finishing but was a bit sad knowing that I'll be off trail too. I met a couple that used to live in Arizona. The man had a Show Low t-shirt on. After I reached the trailhead and had my mini celebration, I started walking/hitching to Durango. A few cars had passed me by but then a truck stopped for me and it was that couple. I'm glad I talked to them while on trail. They dropped me off right in front of Carvers Brewing Co. Carvers gives a pint of their Colorado Nut Brown Trail Ale to all CT finishers. Yum!

Overall Impressions
Going into this hike, I had two big personal questions: Would I be able to handle the altitude and hike the miles day to day and recover or would I become exhausted? Would I enjoy being on the trail for an extended period of time or would I get tired of it all and want to get off trail? Well, I didn't become exhausted and felt I was getting stronger the longer I was on trail and I never wanted to get off trail. Yes, I would be anxious to have a town day, but I was always happy to get back to the trail. On my one zero day, it seemed wrong that I wasn't hiking. I did need the break, but it just seemed wrong.

The people you meet on trail are the best! I met a fair number of other CT thru-hikers. Maybe more than most since I was covering more miles than most of the others. Whatever, the case, it was always a pleasure to talk to the other hikers and maybe walk a few miles together. The day hikers and cyclists seemed to especially want to see how I was doing and hear about my hike. It was fun to meet up with the other thrus at the town stops too. Dinners with groups of hikers was a lot of fun.

The forests are decimated. It's really sad to see. Large swaths of trees were dead from the beetle kill. This was especially prominent from Breckenridge to Molas Pass. There are a lot of young healthy trees growing amongst the dead trees so hopefully in time the forests will recover. In the meantime, all the dead trees are sure to be a tinder box and I worry that there will be some devastating fires.

Planning
For planning, I first used both DallinW's triplog and friendofThundergod's triplog from 2016.

I also used the Colorado Trail Foundation's website, along with PMags' Colorado Trail End to End Guide, of which I saved as a PDF on my phone so I would have access to it during the hike.

I bought both The Colorado Trail Guidebook, 9th ed. and, The Colorado Trail Databook, 6th ed. The databook is compact and is for on trail reference, so I took it with me for navigation/reference and my wife followed me using the guidebook.

Also, for navigation, I bought and installed the Atlas Guides (Guthook) CT App on my phone. This is the official CT App promoted by the Colorado Trail Foundation and distances, etc., match what's in the databook.

I decided to buy my resupply as I went and not send any resupply packages. My plan was to resupply in Breckenridge, Twin Lakes, Salida, Lake City, and Silverton. During the hike, I was a bit worried about meeting my schedule, so I decided to resupply for six days in Lake City and skip the Silverton resupply.

Logistics
Originally, I wanted to only use 3 weeks of vacation but decided it would be difficult to travel to/from the trail and be able to complete the whole hike, so I decided to bracket Labor Day and use 17 days of vacation. That gave me three more days to complete the trail. I knew it would be difficult but doable and I also knew if I was behind schedule I could bail out around Silverton if necessary.

I ended up booking a Friday evening flight to Denver on August 11, and an afternoon flight out of Durango back to Phoenix (via Denver) on September 6, the Wednesday after Labor Day. I booked my flights June 13, about two months before my departure and got what I think is a really good price of $180. I added the $20 flight insurance just in case something came up and I wouldn't be able to use them.

I got lucky when a friend of mine offered to be my, "Denver logistics support for Friday and Saturday." He picked me up at the airport Friday, let me stay at his place, picked up a canister of stove fuel for me, and took me to the trailhead Saturday morning. It worked out perfectly, I can't thank him enough!

TSA doesn't allow trekking poles as carry on and my plane ticket only allowed one "personal item," not a carry on (it's smaller dimensions) so I packed my poles, umbrella, shelter, knife, food, etc. in a box and checked the box as luggage. That made my pack small enough to carry on the plane. For my return, I stopped at a UPS store in Durango and just shipped that stuff back home.

Resupply/Town Stops
My first town stop was in Breckenridge. It's really easy getting around Breckenridge as the bus system is free and convenient. I stayed at The Bivvy Hostel. It's a bit more than some other hostels, but it's nice, clean, serves breakfast, and there's a nearby bus stop. I resupplied at the City Market. It had a good selection of food and reasonable prices.

My second town stop was in Twin Lakes. I got into town around noon and hung out at the Pass Gas general store all afternoon with other hikers. The resupply was expensive. I dropped $70 for resupply, including $10 for a small canister of stove fuel. On the bright side, the beverages were reasonably priced. I got a a 20oz Gatorade and a 16oz IPA for $5. I had lunch at the Twin Lakes Lodge and then had dinner there with three other hikers. My plan was to stay at the hostel there, but it had "issues" and was shut down for the season. The lodge had no vacancies, so I just headed back to the trail for the night.

I stayed in Salida for my third town stop. I didn't feel like sharing a room at a hostel, so I stayed at the Super 8. I had a nice room and the motel was pretty nice for a Super 8. I took a zero (rest day) in Salida. Salida is sort of spread out, but the motel had bikes guests could use so it made it easy getting around town. I resupplied at a Walmart so the prices were good.

My last town stop was in Lake City. It took awhile to hitch from the trail into town; the road is lightly travelled. Lake City was providing a shuttle service from the trail into town and back which is really nice (leaves Lake City at noon, arrives at trail ~12:30), especially if you don't get a hitch. I stayed at the Raven's Rest hostel. It's run by a triple crown hiker (hiked AT, CDT, and PCT) that liked the town when he did the CDT and decided to move there. He was out of town so I never met him. It's a pretty laid back place. Only me and two others were staying there so I had a room to myself. It's a nice town. Resupply was pricey but not too bad. I had to resupply for six days so that might be why it seemed a bit pricey.

I decided I was a bit short on food on my last stretch, so I also walked to the Lake Molas Campground, where there is a small store. It's maybe a half mile off the trail. It actually had a nice choice of items and I could have easily resupplied for a few days. I got cookies and a bar each for the next three days and a Klondike Bar and Gatorade for there. I was also able to dump my trash. The store will accept resupply packages too, so it's a convenient place to resupply, more so than Silverton as you wouldn't need to hitch into town from Molas Pass.
9.85 mi • 4,466 ft aeg
Second hike in Colorado was La Plata Peak. I got the to trailhead around 4:15am, and it was already full, so I parked along the highway. The first half of the hike was relatively easy, with some long, flat stretches interrupted by some steep gains. Again, the first hour or so was by headlamp, and I didn't realize how steeply the side of the trail dropped to the river below in a lot of places until my hike back out in daylight. I took a snack break just at the beginning of the never ending ascent to the summit, and stashed my headlamp. The climb uphill was very steep, with a lot of other hikers, but I took my time and eventually reached the first saddle. It was cloudy, cold, and windy from that point to the top. From there, it's a ridge walk up to the summit. There was still snow along the trail in places, so everyone was forced to the right, into the boulders. They were loose, but there was a cairned route through them. Just below the summit, a very enthusiastic group of guys carrying a keg caught up to me, they owned a brewery in Boulder--Upslope Brewing. They had way too much energy for the conditions, but I followed them to the summit, and even though I don't like beer, took a few sips. It was cold at the summit, so I didn't stick around as long--just long enough to chat for a few minutes, eat, and add a few more layers. The hike down through the boulders was tedious but uneventful, and after that was pretty easy going. Once back down in the valley, it felt warm without the breeze, so I was stopping to shed the layers which were needed at the summit. Lots of people on this trail, and I finished up around noon. The trailhead was packed, there were people parked everywhere. Next time I'm in Colorado to hike 14ers, I'll be starting even earlier than I did on this trip.
13.82 mi • 4,627 ft aeg
Massive was first on my list for Colorado. I got to the trailhead at 4:30am, and it was nearly full. The first hour or so of the hike was with a headlamp. I took a quick snack break just after turning off the CT onto the Massive trail, and by then it was light enough to put the headlamp away. I made my way sloooowly uphill, taking a few more breaks along the way. Perfect weather afforded lots of picture taking opportunities at each break. Finally at the saddle, the ridge walk the rest of the way to the top was my favorite section. There were two groups of people coming down, but nobody else. I got to the summit just after 9:00am, and had it all to myself for 45 minutes. As I was leaving, a group of 3 women showed up, having started from the North Half Moon side. I chatted with them for a minute, then headed back down. Downhill felt like a breeze, and the weather stayed perfect until the last mile or so, then there was some rain/hail, but it was shortlived. Water and flowers everywhere along nearly the entire trail. Hardly any people on the trail, which was nice, and more women than men.
12.82 mi • 4,190 ft aeg
Not many people try to climb Mount Massive from what 14ers.com calls the “Southwest Slopes Route”. It starts from the North Halfmoon Lakes Trailhead on what is marked on my National Geographic Map (Aspen Independence Pass, #127) as the North Halfmoon Trail #1485. Following #1485 northwest 2.7 miles will lead you to the North Halfmoon Lakes.
About 1.6 miles in on #1485, the trail leading to Mount Massive takes off to the right and goes up, up, up a steep, sometimes boulder strewn slope with many, many switchbacks to the top. The point of departure is at a sign shown in my photos. However, the sign merely says “Mount Massive Trail 1451”, with no mention of trail #1485 or indication which route leads where. Luckily, I had a GPS route I had downloaded from 14ers.com which indicated that I should turn right and up the slope. This point is the only question mark over the entire trip, and could cause some hikers without a map or GPS some confusion.
I did some exploring on the internet and found the Forest Service Environmental Assessment (FONSI issued May 7, 2003) which contains an evaluation of various Mount Massive climbing activities and their impacts. The significant increase in hiker interest to bag 14ers had caused several social trails to develop with consequent environmental impacts such as increased erosion. Part of the preferred action to address these impacts was to “stabilize the climbing routes from the North Halfmoon Lakes Trail to the Summit of Mount Massive from the south side of the mountain”. So, they built a single ridgeline route which blocked all other routes to and from the top. That route is referred to by the Forest Service in the EA as Forest Development Trail #1451, and sometimes as the North Halfmoon West Route.
On the day I did this hike, I mistakenly stayed on #1485 toward the lakes and within a hundred yards or so, came to an area that had been subjected to a snow avalanche which obliterated the trail. My GPS by that time told me that I was off the trail to the top, so I bushwhacked a bit to intersect the trail up. I hope the pictures I posted and the information presented here will help others avoid this same mistake. It’s an easy mistake to make; three others behind me a few hundred yards did the same thing.
This may the longest, continuous steep climb I’ve done in Colorado. Here is the heartbreaking part. When I got to the saddle where this route joins with the standard East Route # 1487, about a half mile from the peak (and 170 feet below the summit), the thunder over on Mount Elbert to the south kicked up. As I recovered with some food, the thunder got worse and clouds got blacker. I could see it raining there. The last half mile looked to be some class 3, and I didn’t want to get caught out there, so I pulled the plug and headed down the East Route. I figured to live and hike another day, but didn’t want to tackle the severe down slope on the way I came up. At that point, I was just anxious to get below the tree line. I scooted down to about 13,000 feet and thought I had a few minutes to eat something (it was then approaching 2:00 p.m.). After a few bites, here came the hail. After a few minutes of hail came sleet, then snow, then just rain. I didn’t even have time to get my pack covered, but did manage to get my raincoat on. I was totally drenched within minutes. Luckily the lightning held off till I got to the tree line. I didn’t get a chance to finish my lunch till about 4:00 p.m.
So, I completed the loop up from North Halfmoon Trailhead and down to the Mount Massive Trailhead (at the point the Colorado Trail crosses CR 110), and included the road between the THs to boot. I won’t soon forget this day. My wife asked me the next day if I was going to try another 14er. I told her “I’m done for this year”.
15 mi • 6,100 ft aeg
Harvard/Columbia
This was a bigger day than I had bargained for, but it was a success. Based on the stats (13.7 mi, 5813' AEG) and relatively nonchalant description in the Roach guide, I expected a little bit tougher version of Oxford/Belford. It was considerably tougher. The stats above are from 14ers.com, which seem more correct to me after the hike. In addition to the bigger numbers, the terrain and level of commitment on this hike are more serious than Oxford/Belford and all of the other combos I've done.

The trail into Horn Fork Basin and subsequent ascent of Harvard is the highlight of this hike, and IMO is ideally done as a backpack. There are lots of nice camping spots below tree line in the basin by the Columbia turnoff, and the trail is very gradual up to that point. Harvard is a BIG mountain and you feel all of those 420 feet over 14,000, but it's nice and straightforward.

The traverse to Columbia ranges from lovely to maddening. Some of it is a clear trail, some of it is talus, some of it is an eroded mess (at least if you're like me and didn't spend enough time looking at the 14ers.com pictures), and a good amount of it is over snowfields this time of year. It took me about 2:45 to complete; I'd avoid starting it after 9:00 or if there's any sign of unfavorable weather.

blog.rei.com/hike/m ... 4er/

The above article is a good description of the situation on Columbia. I ended up on the crappy slopes, though I saw another party that had found their way to one of the newer sections of trail which looked really nice as I was skiing down the dirt. My advice is to wait on this combo until the trail is completed, or to do the peaks as two separate outings: Harvard via the standard route, and Columbia via one of the alternate routes from the East. Of course, if you're an insatiable peak bagger or an unprepared moron or a combination of the two :oops:, then this combo is here for the taking...
7.66 mi • 1,393 ft aeg
This was our last hike after two and a half days in the Collegiate West area. We spotted Lake Ann from Huron the day before and it seemed like a nice morning hike before we picked up camp and continued on with our car camping adventure.

I could not find the trail that at one time appeared to go directly to the lake. It was on my G.P.S and someone traced the same line on the description page, however, I do not think that trail exists anymore, as I could not find the intersection, or any real signs of it. I even left the friendly confines of the Colorado Trail to look for it as we neared the lake, but nothing. No problem though, as the CT is in immaculate condition along there and it offers what appears to be the best trail to the Lake Ann anyways.

The lake was very nice and we had it to ourselves for an extended break. The wildflowers were great, as was the solitude, scenery and conditions. I would recommend this one for sure if in the area.
8.36 mi • 3,563 ft aeg
This was the second stop of a five day car camping trip I completed with Jackie and the pups following my Colorado Trail hike. I was looking for an "easier" 14er that I could get Jackie and the pups up and this one came highly recomended. We car camped along the road on the way in and enjoyed literally one of the most picturesque sites I have ever camped at. Located in a high mountain valley along the north fork of Clear Creek with snow capped mountains in every direction, it was simply amazing. The only drawback was the flies, never seen them so bad in my life. Almost maddening at times for us and the dogs!

We got a pretty early start, as I thought we would want every extra minute to beat any potential early afternoon storms and I wanted Jackie to be able to go up at her own pace. Jackie did just fine, she was slow and steady, but steady won the day and after some tough moments she was finally standing on the summit with me. Meanwhile, the dogs were literally in heaven. If you have an outdoorsy dog, do it a favor and take it to the tundra at least once in its life. Between squeaking Pikas and barking marmots there are enough sights and sounds to put any dog in sensory overload. I can say for certain that no rodent sized animals were harmed in this trip by the wolf pack, but there may have been some interesting chases.

The summit was absolutely spectacular and one could hardly tell we were standing on such a "diminutive" 14er. There were 360 degree blue bird views of the Collegiate Peaks and so much more. Likewise, we nearly had the summit to ourselves on this weekday morning and only crossed paths with four other hikers while atop the peak. Jackie was stunned by the views and amazed by the elevation. I kept reminding her that it was a small one and still stood a solid 1,500 feet higher than any point in AZ, something she was very proud to hear. Heck just a month ago she was hitting 11,000 feet for the first time and now her and the pups were taking in the views from a 14er!

It was just a great experience overall, being able to take someone up a 14er for the first time and watching my 11 year old Cup stand on one for the first time in her long eventful hiking life. After a very extended stay on the peak, we headed down the trail and enjoyed the nice quick grade all the way back to the TH. An awesome peak and despite its height one of the better ones in the area if you ask me.

Wildflowers
If you are a flower lover, get above the treeline and you will be blown away!
helpcommentissue

end of page marker