“One of the toughest 4WD roads in the country, and a rigorous approach to the Blanca Group.”
— Tyler Prince
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
While the Lake Como Approach is technically a "road," don't take that too literally. While stock 4WD cars may make it 1-2 miles up the trail, there remain four sets of obstacles affectionately known as "Jaws" 1-4. Believe the hype, and take your ATV or walk. Winter closure is variable and depends on conditions, as the road gets a lot of sun.
Dogs are allowed if leashed, and can summit Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point
. Responsible owners will not take Fido up the technical Little Bear Peak
Lake Como Road alternates between wide and forgiving and narrow and rocky. The grade isn't too bad, but the sun beating down on you'll wear you down faster than you would imagine. All-in-all, this is a doable but unpleasant run, best left as an approach to some of Colorado's more unique 14ers.
Assuming you park about 1.5 miles up, expect a 2-4 hr hike or a 1-2 hr run. Most runners will need to carry 20-30 lbs of gear for camp, so remember that you may be slower than normal.
On CO Hwy 160, head east from Alamosa or west from Fort Garland. Turn north onto CO 150 toward Great Sand Dune National Park. Drive over 3 miles, turning right onto Lake Como Rd/Blanca Peak Rd. How far you can drive from here is dependent on your vehicle, off-road skills, and connection to your car's undercarriage.
Most 4WD cars with decent clearance can make it about 1.5 miles up the road before it begins to get rocky. There are plenty of pull-offs along the road, so you don't have to worry too much about getting stuck without a parking spot. Heavy duty trucks and XTerra/Jeep/FJ Cruiser type cars can make it about 3 miles, or to 8,800 ft. After this, there are four sets of obstacles known by off-roaders as "Jaws." Jaws 1-4 are passable only in highly modified cars and ATVs.
Runners should head up a clear road with occasional rocks and sharp hairpin turns. The grade is a fairly consistent 8-12% with the occasional flat spot. As the slope of the road is SE facing, it gets a lot of sun, and even a leisurely pace can be exhausting. Pass into the trees before the obstacles start to get some much-needed shade. Continue along the trail, up past all four sets of obstacles, before rounding a final right turn and reaching a rocky ramp up to Lake Como.
Flora & Fauna
Lake Como is famous for pesky bears, marmots, and pikas. Protect your food! Fortunately, the wildflowers, aspens, willows, and conifers won't get in your way as much as the critters might.