COVID-19: At REI, we encourage you to get outside responsibly. Stay local, avoid recreational travel, practice social distancing and check ahead for area and facility closures. Learn More
Trail Run Project Logo

Handies Peak - Southwest Slopes



5.4 mile 8.7 kilometer out and back
56% Runnable


Ascent: 2,377' 724 m
Descent: -2,376' -724 m
High: 14,024' 4,275 m
Low: 11,647' 3,550 m


Avg Grade: 17% (9°)
Max Grade: 44% (24°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Tyler Prince

A remote, yet easy, 14er with stunning views.

Tyler Prince

Features Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The road to the trailhead is a challenging drive, and seasonal closures are often in effect closer to Lake City than they are to the trailhead.

The land manager requests all dogs be leashed. What few dogs you see will likely be unleashed.


This Lake City 14er provides a great payoff for the effort. Just a short, all terrain, drive from Redcloud and Sunshine, it's also a good follow-up for a single day run, should you have the time.

Need to Know

This entire run is above treeline, so bring your sunscreen. The drive into American Basin is at times as technical as the run, so don't even consider it unless you have a 4WD car with good clearance.

Fast runners should take around two to three hrs round trip, with slower runners clocking in at around five hrs.

Runner Notes

While steep, the excellent trail and short round trip makes for a great, albeit strenuous, alpine run. Fast runners can bank on an RT time of under two hrs.


From Lake City, drive 2 miles south on CO 149. Turn right onto the alpine loop scenic byway, AKA County Road 30. Pass by a lake before the road turns to dirt. Most 2WD cars will be fine although some clearance may be necessary up high.

Continue along an excellent dirt road. In about eight miles, the road will pass above a ghost town, at which point it will become a shelf road with a 1,000 ft drop off the left side. Drive carefully! In a few miles, the road will become less exposed.

After about 18 miles of dirt road, you'll come to the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch Trailhead, where there is ample parking, a bathroom, and fire pit. Park here to access Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak. To access Handies Peak, drive about two more miles up the road to American Basin.

Beyond this point, 4WD or at least good clearance is advisable. In about two miles, turn left at a fork at a sign for American Basin. Continuing straight will put you on Cinnamon Pass, which is an extremely difficult 4WD road. If you don't have a 4WD car with good clearance, park shortly after this turn. A good driver with a Subaru Outback or better can cross a creek and continue up the rocky road about a mile, parking in a decent size lot.

From the American Basin trailhead, run east up an excellent trail with the odd rock here and there. Head south up some switchbacks, passing between rock patches on a clear trail. Angle toward the right end of the basin before coming to a lake on your right at 13,100 ft. This is an awesome spot for a dip on the way back down.

Run about 300 ft up on some more switchbacks. Continue across some talus to the left, gaining only a little ground before returning to grassy slopes. Run up some steep switchbacks to reach the saddle at 13,500 ft between Handies Peak to your left and Point, 13,588 ft, to your right.

From here, simply run up on the excellent trail with the steepest pitch along a gravelly trail right below the summit.

From the top, enjoy the excellent San Juan views. Don't forget to stop for a swim on the way back down!

Flora & Fauna

From stunning San Juan wildflowers to marmots, this is a great route for scenery.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

History & Background

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.


Rate This Run

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Run

Check In


Jul 11, 2017
Amanda Stone

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 14 votes


  4.6 from 14 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Run Rankings


in Colorado


61 Views Last Month
6,360 Since Mar 18, 2015



Fourth of July in American Basin. Does it get more patriotic?
Jul 5, 2016 near Silverton, CO
American Basin, Colorado
Jul 12, 2015 near Silverton, CO
San Juan Mountains, American Basin
Jul 12, 2015 near Silverton, CO
Looking back down American Basin
Jul 12, 2015 near Silverton, CO
American Peak, American Basin, 4th of July weekend
Jul 12, 2015 near Silverton, CO
Looking back on the Handies Peak - Southwest Ridge Trail.
Sep 1, 2016 near Silverton, CO


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running