UN 13,015 (formerly UN 13,020 interpolated) near Maroon Lake and Willow Pass has been determined to be no longer a ranked summit per Lidar evaluation, which gives it 292 ft. of prominence. This has reduced the total number of ranked 13ers from 584 to 583.
Savage Peak may be completed as a not-too-long dayhike from the Missouri Lakes TH near Homestake Reservoir north of Leadville, CO. This is a Class 2 hike over generally easy terrain with about half the trip on maintained trail access. The trailhead is accessible to passenger vehicles. The route takes hikers into the beautiful Missouri Lakes basin. This area is quite popular on summer weekends. Lidar removed 4 feet of elevation.
The trailhead for Missouri Lakes/Fancy Lake is a shared trailhead with trails starting out in different directions from the same location. To access this trailhead, take the turnoff for FR703 located along CO24 between Leadville and Minturn. If coming from Leadville, turn onto CO24 just north of town from CO91. Drive to Tennesee Pass and the turnoff for Ski Cooper. Continue north on CO24 for another 10.9 miles to an "S" curve in the highway. The turnoff for FR703 and Homestake Reservoir will be on the west side (left) of the highway.
If coming from Minturn, you would have exited I-70 and driven south into Minturn. Continue driving south gaining elevation up to the old mining site of Gilman (some call this hill climb "Battle Mtn."), then drop down in elevation to the turnoff for Red Cliff. Continue driving south on CO24 from the turnoff and spectacular arch-span bridge and measure off another 2.9/3.0 miles. Turn west (right) onto FR703 at the fist curve of the "S" curve.
FR703 drops down losing some elevation on a couple of switchbacks. In .3 mile, there is an information kiosk. Across from the kiosk, there is a small, primitive camping site that can accommodate RV's, trailers, etc. Continue on FR703 for 6.7 miles to the Gold Park Campground, passing a dozen and a half primitive campsites along the road. At Gold Park CG, there are 12 sites suitable for trailers, RV's or tents. They have a vault toilet but no water. Fee as of 2019 was $21 per night for a single vehicle.
Continue past the campground for a total of another 3.0 miles to the trailhead. Along the way, do not turn off on the Holy Cross City 4WD road FR759. This is strictly 4WD. Continue on the main road to an intersection where you will turn right about a mile past the campground. The intersection is signed. Drive another 2.1 miles on FR704 to the trailhead. The first mile has several switchbacks. The entire drive in is passable to passenger cars of most all types. Some sections may tend to be wash-boarded. In the last mile, we counted at least 6 to 8 primitive campsites.
If only the Missouri Lakes trail is desired, then from the dual trailhead, you can drive south and SW, crossing Missouri Creek and follow the aqueduct road another .7 mile to a small parking area. From here, you may wade or attempt to drive across Missouri Creek and join the trail which continues as a road to a diversion pond at the wilderness boundary just a short distance from the park. This will save about 15 minutes of walking but only about 100 feet in elevation gain and will require a creek crossing with no bridge. This .7 mile drive will be on rougher road as well but most SUV's should be able to handle with no problem.
Be advised that as of summer, 2019, a large-scale avalanche from the previous winter left a quarter-mile wide swath of downed trees blocking the Missouri Lakes Trail at about 2 or 2.5 miles in on the hike to the lakes. The Forest Service plans to attempt to "clear" some of this damage in the fall, after all the snow and ice buried under the morass of shredded trees has melted off. In the mean time, a temporary use trail has evolved that gets hikers through the maze with little difficulty. When you come to the edge of the avalanche damage, look to the right for a fainter trail that heads uphill, then later begins a higher contour that skirts much of the damage. You'll still have to climb over or under a few fallen trees but you can easily get through it all with a backpack. Towards the end of the damage area, the trail drops back down losing most of the elevation it gained, in order to rejoin the original trail. As for the overall condition of this trail, it is a highly used path so it is well-worn, rocky with many exposed tree roots and not too kind to tired feet. It's a toe-stubbing challenge for tired hikers, backpackers and climbers. Two of the three stream crossing have good bridges. One last crossing closer to the lakes just has a cluster of loose logs to cross on.
As mentioned above, at .3 miles along FR703, there is a primitive site that can accommodate RV's, trailers, etc. For the remaining 6.4 miles to the Gold Park campground, we counted at least 18 primitive sites. Then there is the Forest Service maintained Gold Park CG as described above. From the intersection for either Homestake Reservoir or the Missouri Lakes/Fancy Lake TH, we counted another 6 - 8 primitive sites along the road up to the trailhead, most of which were in the final mile. Once you arrive at the trailhead, you can also follow the aqueduct road NE and find other places where you can park along the road and at least car-camp. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead.
For years, we had heard of and seen pictures of this Missouri Lakes area and looked forward to seeing what visual delights awaited us. It was about a 2.5 or 3 mile hike to the lakes on a very well-worn trail. The trail passes one interesting small, gorge section where the main creek has carved a short, slot canyon. Up above here, it begins to level off and pass through beautiful meadows. Be advised that as of summer, 2019, a large-scale avalanche from the previous winter left a quarter-mile wide swath of downed trees blocking the Missouri Lakes Trail at about 2 or 2.5 miles in on the hike to the lakes. The Forest Service plans to attempt to "clear" some of this damage in the fall of 2019 after all the snow and ice buried under the morass of shredded trees has melted off. In the mean time, a temporary use trail has evolved that gets hikers through the maze with little difficulty. If the trail has not been cleared through the avalanche area, then here's one way around it: When you come to the edge of the avalanche damage, look to the right for a fainter trail that heads uphill, then later begins a higher contour that skirts much of the damage. You'll still have to climb over or under a few fallen trees but you can easily get through it all with a backpack. Towards the end of the damage area, the trail drops back down losing most of the elevation it gained, in order to rejoin the original trail.
As for the overall condition of this trail, it is a highly used path so it is well-worn, rocky with many exposed tree roots and not too kind to tired feet. It's a toe-stubbing challenge for tired hikers, backpackers and climbers. Two of the three stream crossing have good bridges. One last crossing closer to the lakes just has a cluster of loose logs to cross on. When the trail brings you close to the first lake at 11,420 ft., take some time to study your map and determine the location of Savage Peak which will be looking back to the SSW.
By that point, you should actually be past the peak, but directly east of the lake at 11,420 ft. From this vantage point and looking a little SW, there is a steep but mostly grassy slope leading for several hundred feet up to a saddle in the ridge running north from Savage. (In our photos, this slope/shallow gully is filled with snow.) Head west across the grassy terrain seeing numerous flowers and mushrooms later summer and then start up the slope beyond the lake on its west side. You should come to another smaller lake at 11,460 ft. Continue WSW to gain the slope. The next 1,200 feet are steeper than might be anticipated, with footing being a little insecure at times if there is no snow. If covered with snow, then ice axe and micro-spikes may prove beneficial. As you hike up you may be rewarded with numerous paintbrush flowers that display a vivid pink coloration. As you gain elevation, all the lakes in the area become visible and we marveled at their beauty and coloration. Intersect the north ridge just below the 12,600 ft. contour and maybe a half mile south of the 12,898 ft. summit marked on the survey map. From here, it is just an easy walk along the ridge to the south over mostly rocky, but manageable terrain. From this ridge there are excellent views of the peaks to the west that surround the Strawberry Lakes area. The 500 or more feet of gain will pass quickly and soon, you will emerge on the large summit of small rock and tundra. For us, it was a great day to pause here and eat and enjoy the view. We had an unobstructed view of the entire Missouri Lakes basin and some of the summits to the north such as Whitney Peak. A summit register confirmed to us that we had climbed the correct peak.
For our descent, we decided to continue and follow the ridge that turned east, then ENE and would drop us back down into the valley which we had hiked up. We had surveyed this ridge earlier in the day and had a good idea of where to descend off it, so we headed on down, making rapid progress on the loose rocks and tundra. We stopped a couple of times along the way to view the spectacular slash in the NE face of the peak. This gigantic cleft plummeted hundreds of feet away from us. It would certainly pose a formidable ascent for any team of climbers in early season, probably being filled with ice and snow, but for now, it was nothing more than a giant funnel for rocks to ricochet their way down. At a level spot in the ridge above 11,700 ft., where a few trees begin to appear, we dove off to the north and made a steep descent on grassy benches broken by rocky outcrops and found our way through the forest on game trails that eventually led us back to the main trail. From here, it was just a two mile hike back out, with a few pauses for pictures of the vivid red mushrooms (definitely poisonous). Total hiking time was under 6 hours. NOTE: A massive avalanche winter of 2019 left a huge pile of fallen trees in the area of where we made this descent. We do not recommend this descent currently unless you take careful time to plot a course that would avoid the extensive avalanche debris. It may be best to return as you came.