Newly ranked 13er per Lidar evaluation in 2022. Previously considered unranked. A Class 2 hike that utilizes trail for about 2/5ths of the hike, some open forest bushwhacking, followed by a long tundra slope hike.
Please Note: During the summer of 2015, a landslide closed the road that leads to the Lily Lake Trailhead, and surrounding private property made it illegal to attempt to find another way around that landslide. Reports from summer of 2016 indicated that a temporary road was built around the landslide and vehicle access to the trailhead had resumed. It should not be assumed however, that this access will remain open. Further damage could result in closure again. It would be best to contact the Forest Service regarding road condition before planning a trip into here. Call 719-269-8500 for the Pueblo/San Carlos ranger district for more information. We re-visited this area and trailhead in summer 2019 and found no problems and again in 2022.
From I-25, take exit #52 west and turn onto SH69 that goes through Gardner to Westcliffe. Drive to Gardner and then on the west side of the small town, the road makes a turn north. About a half mile west out of town, after the highway has made that turn north, take a left turn onto CR550, aka: The Mosca Pass Road. (If coming from Westcliffe, you will reach this intersection before arriving in Gardner.) Shortly after making this turn, a Forest Service sign indicates the Upper Huerfano TH to be 21.5 miles. In 7 miles, the road turns to graded gravel near "Red Wing." In another 4.8 miles stay left onto FS580 and enter a State Wildlife area. There appears to be not only picnic locations and vault toilets within the wildlife area, but also camping allowed, however fees may apply. In 3.4 more miles, the road enters an area of private property with a sign indicating Forest Access. Another sign here indicates the Upper Huerfano TH to be another 5.3 miles. In .5 mile after entering the private property, stay left at the entrance to the Singing River Ranch. Remaining distances are measured from this ranch entrance. The road narrows but remains passable for 2WD. In another .8 mile, pass the entrance to the Aspen River Ranch. The road narrows more and becomes more rough. At 1.4 mile, there's a fence line and cattle guard in an open meadow area where some passenger cars have been observed parking. From the Aspen River ranch, it's 4.2 more miles to signs for the Huerfano and Zapata Trails, aka the Raspberry Trail, or 20.7/8 miles in from the turnoff for CR550 from HWY 69 west of Gardner. (In 2022, the avalanche damage was not all that evident any longer before reaching this trailhead.) For the Lily Lake TH, continue about 2 more miles for the upper valley summits. Coordinates for the Zapata/Raspberry TH for California Peak and UN 13,557 are: N 37° 38' 15.24" W 105° 28' 17.64". In these last couple miles to the Lily Lake TH, there are at-large camping opportunities and some very limited camping room at the trailhead as well. Things are not very level at the trailhead. We advise checking out this trailhead on www.14ers.com for more current information and opinions from other sources as to whether or not 2WD can make it to the TH.
Be advised that hiking to Mt. Lindsey requires one creek crossing with no bridge or log assist. Be prepared to wade and aware of the dangers of doing so in run-off season. In 2019, we hiked the entire trail to Mt. Lindsey and used the NW Ridge route. We found the trail to be steep but easy to follow all the way up to the NW ridge. We think that beginning in 2020/21, the owners of property on Mt. Lindsay have closed access for that14er along the upper sections. Consult 14ers.com for more recent updates regarding current access issues.
At-large campsites on National Forest land are available the last couple miles to the trailhead. Make sure you are not attempting to camp on any of the private property. There are a couple of fairly nice spots just beyond the Huerfano-Zapata TH. See coordinates below.
The parking spot for this route is at the two trailheads location, one to the west side of the road for California Peak called the "Zapata Trail," #853, and across the road to the east is the not well-marked trail called "The Raspberry Trail." This is 20.8 miles in from where you turn off of CO 69 west of Gardner onto CR 550, measuring from where 550 crosses the creek, immediately after turning off the highway. Coordinates are: N 37° 38' 15.24" W 105° 28' 17.64". There is a road marker sign for the Raspberry Trail but it's down a short embankment and weeds and grasses may conceal it. The parking spot here can accommodate about 2 vehicles. IF occupied, drive south on 580B 50 yards or so and look for a primitive road turning off to the left into an open meadow that's used for parking and primitive camping. To avoid needless wandering around, park and walk back to the trailhead.
The trail drops a few feet down the road embankment, and heads eastward to a kiosk, which may be partially obscured by a fallen tree. Circle around the tree by walking east, then turn north as you circle around the tree to regain the trail which heads generally NE toward Huerfano Creek. The trail crosses what is usually a dry wash and had a few cairns and leads down to the creek crossing where old cement abutments can be seen that once supported a bridge. Now, there are only some loosely placed, slim logs to attempt to cross with, or just wade. The trail is quite clear on the other side and almost immediately climbs steeply NE passing a wilderness sign, then turns south (switchbacking right), crossing a rock outcrop heading parallel the creek, then turning left to follow a shallow drainage. It then turns more SE into fallen trees. In July of 2022, on the first few switchbacks, there was a large amount of deadfall that obscured sections of the trail. Just keep in mind there are short switchbacks in this lower section and try to follow the trail as much as possible, or make a left turn, heading up the hillside and you should intercept it farther up. Once past the fallen debris, the trail emerges clear and it's easy to follow it all the way up to the forested ridge above Huerfano Creek at a little above 11,080 ft. Overall, there were at least 10 switchbacks. Once on the ridge, the trail will turn east and level off for a short while. At one point here, you do get a brief view of the 13,557 summit. Some elect to continue farther east before turning south, but we turned off the trail at these coordinates and began the open forest bushwhack here: N 37° 38 23.87" W 105° 27' 44.44". Work generally south and slightly SSE gaining elevation slowly at first and then more steeply before reaching the open tundra, wide ridge above. Here is one waypoint that may keep you on course: 37° 37' 54.79" W 105° 27' 37.44". This is where things steepen up at about 11,400 ft. Once you reach the open tundra at 11,800 ft., the summit is still a good distance away, but basically follow the snaking ridge all the way to the summit. The last few hundred yards becomes a little rockier with embedded rocks and tundra. We did find a summit register here. The view looking over to Blanca Peak is simply stupendous. What an amazing hunk of mountain. Also, the rock glacier across the valley coming off California Peak is quite impressive.
For the descent, simply head back down as you came, enjoying amazing views of the southern Wet Valley. Wildflowers on this July trip were evident but not overly abundant. Strong hikers can complete this in as little time as 4 hours.