Fancy Peak is most easily access from the Missouri Lakes/Fancy Pass trailhead. This is located above Homestake Reservoir, NNW of Leadville. The trailhead is accessible by passenger car. At-large camping is allowed nearby. The hike is rated a Class 2 with some rocky conditions. The summit offers vies of the Holy Cross Wilderness and Upper Cross Creek. The hike also takes you by Fancy Lake, another small but beautiful alpine lake in the heart of the Sawatch. Lidar reduced elevation from 13192 ft. to 13,176, total 16 foot loss.
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.
Begin hiking on the well-maintained Fancy Lake/Pass trail that leads for about 3 miles up to Fancy Lake. The trail is mostly in forest and climbs gently on numerous switchbacks until it crosses Fancy Creek to the north side. Thereafter, it takes a more direct route with fewer switchbacks and steeper climbing toward the lake. We passed some nice flowers along the way and many mushrooms. Below the lake, Fancy Creek enters a narrow, almost slot-canyon like gorge with a significant waterfall, but difficult to photograph from the trail because of the low light inside the gorge. As the trail arrives at the lake, there are some good campsites on the hillside just north of the lake, along the trail that leads northeast to the next drainage. Fancy Lake has a nice backdrop of peaks and provides a nice reflection, so we spent some time taking a few pictures before continuing on.
From the lake, the trail heads to the north side of the lake and climbs steeply above in a westward direction. The drainage that leads to Fancy Pass is mostly rock filled with some old mining debris. There are some sections of the trail where you must scramble on some slabs, but the footing is always good. At the pass, turn north and hike on a very faint route that hangs to the west and below the ridge crest. This route avoids a rocky outcrop that would be a little problematic. The faint trail eventually leads to the ridge, north of the obstacle mentioned before. Once on the ridge, it is a hike over rocky terrain with a few minor obstacles and some tundra areas to the summit, which is well north of Fancy Pass. The actual summit is west of and overlooks the Mulhall Lakes in a completely different drainage than Fancy Creek. Once on the summit you may want to study other peaks in the surrounding area. Of interest to us was Whitney Peak and an unnamed, and fairly spectacular summit a little north of us along the same ridge which shows as being just below 13,000 ft. We also took photos of some of the peaks to the west-southwest that border the Strawberry Lakes drainage. One of the two 13ers in here is regarded as technical. That is Ribbed Peak. The summits that surround the Strawberry Lakes are rugged and dramatic.
For the descent, you could just retrace your ascent route, but here's an alternate descent to consider. After our lunch break on the summit we departed with some afternoon clouds building. Instead of retracing our route, we decided to head NNE along the ridge for a couple hundred yards before spotting a mostly tundra slope that would lead down to the SE in the direction of the Mulhall Lakes. Drop down to the SE on mostly tundra-covered slopes just north of the summit and on the easy side of the ridge crest toward the Mulhall Lakes below. As we descended, we came into one shallow couloir that was still filled with wildflowers that had not been damaged by the late August frosts. We spent a considerable amount of time here taking more photos before continuing on down to the larger of the two lakes. By the time we were there, the sky had clouded up and a distant shower was falling over on Homestake Peak. So we hastened on SE dropping past the lower lake and then connecting with the trail (That's trail #2001 on the CalTopo map provided - an old roadbed) that led back south to Fancy Lake. Back at the lake we saw many day hikers and took a few more photos before departing. Then it was simply a stroll down the trail back to the parking lot where with an early afternoon return.