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Handies Peak - East Slopes

Intermediate/Difficult
 5.0 (6) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Arguably the most popular route to the top of Handies Peak, this is one of the peak's Class 2 routes


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Map Key

8.0

Miles

12.8

KM

57%

Runnable

14,025' 4,275 m

High

10,408' 3,172 m

Low

3,616' 1,102 m

Up

3,616' 1,102 m

Down

17%

Avg Grade (10°)

62%

Max Grade (32°)

Dogs Leashed

Features River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Grizzly Gulch is arguably the most popular trail to Handies Peak, one of the five 14,000 ft. peaks in the area. From this trailhead, three Fourteeners can be visited in two days. The best time to visit is late July and early August when the tundra basin below the peak is carpeted with wildflowers. A small alpine lake in the eastern spur of the basin can be reached as an interesting 1/2-mile side trip. To boot, the top of Handies Peak offers a spectacular view of the San Juan Mountains.

Need to Know

Loose talus may be encountered along the upper trail around the switchback ridge. Please watch your footing. It is important to be prepared for typical July and August afternoon thunder showers. It is best to get an early start and plan to be off the peak by noon or 1:00 pm. Be sure to bring sunscreen, rain gear and drinking water. Remember, running at high altitude requires more time and energy. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and avoid overexertion. Be sure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return.

Runner Notes

Be careful on the loose talus fields along the upper trail near the switchback ridge.

Description

From Lake City, take highway 149 south, 2.5 miles. Turn right onto the road to Lake San Cristobal. Follow the paved road about 4 miles then continue on dirt road for 12.6 miles. The trail sign, located on the left, indicates Handies Peak.

From the trailhead, follow the trail that starts behind the restroom to a bridge crossing the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Climbing steadily, the trail passes through spruce, fir and aspen. Through this area, the trail is clearly marked and well maintained. At timberline, the trail continues up the basin then climbs the ridge to the west. Across the open tundra, the trail may not always be clearly visible, but is marked with rock cairns for runners to follow. The trail leads straight up valley for about 3/4 mile. A sign points to a long switchback that turns to a ridge leading to Handies Peak. Be sure to look over your shoulder on the way up for some beautiful views of the Silver Creek Valley.

If you're looking for a longer journey, once on the ridge, a run to the northeast will lead to the top of 13,542-foot White Cross Mountain. A map may be useful as the trail is not maintained. From Handies Peak you can also return via the American Basin Trail (Handies Peak) then follow the main road or hitchhike back down to your car.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Robson

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 6 votes

#678

Overall
  5.0 from 6 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#133

in Colorado

#678

Overall
268 Views Last Month
3,497 Since Jul 14, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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33%
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Photos

Runners descending Handies Peak towards Sloan Lake. Grouse gulch is the next aid station. American Peak is the mountain in the backdrop.
Jul 5, 2015 near Silverton, CO
Near the summit of Handies Peak, 14,048 ft., the high point of the race course. A passing storm created a rainbow over Grizzly Gulch. July 2009.
Jul 5, 2015 near Silverton, CO
Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, and Uncompahgre as seen from Handies Peak.
Mar 18, 2015 near Silverton, CO
Grizzly Gulch trail follows Grizzly Creek all the way up to the north ridge of Handies Peak.
Sep 15, 2018 near Lake City, CO
Descending Handies Peak through the flowers with stunning views of the American Peaks.
Jul 11, 2016 near Silverton, CO

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