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LoJ: #359 (G & M: #358) / 13,340' Mount Herard

Quadrangle › Medano Pass
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 50' 57.13", W 105° 29' 40.18" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon "Medano Peak"

Peak Summary

Note: In the first edition printings of Garrett & Martin, this peak was named "Mount Seven" and was ranked #361. The Third Edition of G&M has changed to Mount Herard. In fact, the two 13er summits located here have an interesting name history, some of which can be found in a Wikipedia report on Mt. Herard. Here is a portion: "Originally called Medano Peak, the mountain with seven separate summits was renamed Mount Seven at the request of the Colorado Mountain Club in 1970. In 1984 the mountain's name was changed to honor Ulysses Herard who homesteaded on its slopes in 1876."

Mt. Herard is a Class 2 ascent with a long trail access as well as a required 4WD with good clearance driving approach. There is a cairn-marked trail that takes hikers well up the peak before fading out. The scenic aspects of this hike are outstanding as well as the opportunities to see wildlife. Medano Lake, at the foot of the peak offers a very "classic" Colorado, alpine scene. 

Mt. Herard North Ridge Route

Class 2
Peak Icon Peak Icon
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
Climbed with "Medano Peak"
RT From Medano Lake Trailhead: 10 mi / 4,350'
From "Medano Peak": 1.00 mi / 850' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Medano Lake Trailhead

      The best and easiest access to the Medano Lake Trail is from the east side of Medano Pass. To get there, make your way to either Westcliffe or Walsenburg. From Westcliffe, drive south on CO 69 for 24.7 miles (mileages may vary) to a marked turnoff on the west side of the highway for Medano Pass.

      From I-25 north of Walsenburg,  take exit #52 west and turn onto SH69 that goes to Gardner. Begin measuring where the highway in Gardner makes a jog to the south, then back west. Continue following CO 69 for 9.4 miles NW to the same signed turnoff as coming from Westcliffe. 

      For both accesses, proceed west on CR 559 which will head generally WNW past Creager Reservoir, then turn more to the west to begin the climb to Medano Pass. At 7.5 miles from CO 69, CR 559 will come to an area of multiple roads turning off including FR 412. Stay on what will now be FR 559 to Medano Pass, another 1.8 miles. These last two miles are the only part that require 4WD and in 2004 we did not find it either slow or difficult to drive. The only problems were some potholes. From the wooded summit of the low pass, continue SW for .6 mile to an intersection. Turn right and drive a short distance to the trailhead. There are a couple campsites with firerings but without facilities here. You are now in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. No permit is required to camp in this location as of 2018. 

      The main road continues on out to the park visitor center and main campground, several slow miles away. When you are done with your hike/climb, if you want to continue driving this road, be advised of the following: 1. There are some "backcountry campsites" along the way that a permit may be required for. 2. The road initially goes fairly speedily, but you'll soon encounter rocky stretches that will slow progress considerably. 3. Farther down the road, as it begins to come near the sand dunes, it will become quite sandy and tricky to drive, especially with some vehicles approaching from the other direction. You'll want to keep your vehicle moving whenever and wherever possible as stopping may prove to make it difficult to get moving again in the sand. At times, this lower section of road becomes impassable, either because of the sand or because Medano Creek is flowing high. You should not attempt to drive this without checking with the park first. If driving this road north from the park entrance and the visitor center, you will cross Medano Creek 8 times. In the high runoff part of the season, a couple of the crossing may be impossible to make because the water is so high. Therefore, if driving to the trailhead from this direction, it is definitley best to wait until the runoff has subsided. Go to the park website at: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm for more information or call the headquarters at 719-378-6395. 

      If coming from the north end of the San Luis Valley on US 285, follow US 285 south to Poncha Pass from Poncha Springs, and continue south to Villa Grove. Five miles south of Villa Grove, turn off to the left onto SH17, which is the more direct route to Alamosa. It's 30 miles to Hooper (you may nearly miss this little town) and from Hooper, continue south another 6 miles to County Road 6N where you will turn left (east). Drive 16.4 miles east to where 6N intersects with SH150. Make a left and drive to the Great Sand Dunes National Park entrance. 


      Camping

      See above. The national park has a full-service type campground but without hookups: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/pinonflatscampground.htm. Follow this link for other camping information outside the park: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/area-campgrounds.htm. 

    Approach Map Photos
    • From UN 13153 A

      From the trailhead, the Medano Lake trail makes a wide, sweeping arc, first heading NW, then west, then SW to Medano Lake over 3.5 miles, with a little under 2,000 feet of elevation gain, so most of the trail gradient is relatively easy. This trail hike offers several wild game viewing opportunities. We had not been on the trail for more than a few minutes when we encountered a large group of wild turkeys. Farther on, there was a cow elk grazing in a stand of thick aspens, grouse and high on the peak, ptarmigan. 

      In 2004, a small bridge took us across Medano Creek at about 9,700 feet. For the next mile, the trail is an old jeep track that passes through classic Colorado forest of aspen, pines and wildflowers. There is little elevation gain. At about 10,100 feet, after passing through a nice meadow, the trail begins to gain more. In about two hours, you should arrive at the beautiful Medano Lake, nestled in a great, glacial-carved cirque with sheer cliffs and rocky bluffs on three sides and soaring peaks. This is "classic" Colorado. 

      From perhaps a hundred yards or so before the lake outlet, we began the ascent to Medano Peak. Basically follow a steep, grassy, flower-laden slope NW past some scraggly trees aiming for the east ridge of Medano, high above. The grass and tundra continues for the most part all the way to the east ridge. If you intersect the east ridge just below 12,800 feet, then head on up the ridge through a minor rocky stretch. After that, the ridge moderates and you can finish on mostly tundra and embedded rock with minor amounts of rubble. The summit is uneventful but offers views into the San Luis Valley and lower Sand Creek drainage. Medano Peak is sequenced with Mt. Herard. It would hardly make sense to not continue on and bag the only other 13er in this group. 

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Mt. Herard North Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2004

    Mt. Herard is sequenced with Medano Peak. One-way mileage and elevation gain to Herard are measured from the summit of Medano Peak. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence. 

    From the summit of Medano Peak, head south along the connecting ridge to Mt. Herard. The descent to the saddle is on mostly tundra with embedded rock and some occasional rubble/talus. The 850 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Mt. Herard will be over similar terrain. There is a steeper middle section along the ascent and then things taper off as you approach the very large and relatively flat, tundra-covered summit that has a single large cairn to mark the high spot. Traverse time between the two summits will likely be under an hour for most acclimated hikers. 

    Once on this summit, you'll enjoy an outstanding opportunity to view the Great Sand Dunes and a sweeping view of the San Luis Valley. For the descent, more ambitious peakbaggers may want to consider heading down the NE ridge. There is a ranked 12er of 12,925 feet that falls along the ridge crest. From there, you could continue on down the NE ridge, bushwhack your way through forest for under a mile, then intercept the trail about half way between the trailhead and Medano Lake. Otherwise, head back to the Medano-Herard saddle, then drop east into the large basin. This basin is a mix of tundra and talus. Drop down toward the tongue of a large rock glacier, basically following on the north side of the intermittent stream. The tongue of the rock glacier is on the south side of the drainage. North of that rock glacier and on the north side of the drainage, look for a rock bluff with a sloping bench at its' base, and some low evergreens. There is a trail on this bench that is part of the cairn-marked route that comes up from the lake and goes toward the Medano-Herard saddle. Once you find the trail, just follow it back to the lake where it will bring you out at the north end and will intercept the Medano Lake trail. Cool your feet in the pleasant lake, then walk out the final 3.5 miles back to the trailhead. 


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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