Lackawanna Peak is a Class 2 Sawatch Range summit that's very similar to other Sawatch summits with a steep climb out of the lower valley and more gentle terrain in the tundra. The trailhead is accessible by passenger vehicles of most any type. The above treeline portion of the hike is mostly a tundra stroll. At-large camping is available nearby. This rates as a fairly good "family" hike.
Lackawanna Peak NNW Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From North Fork Lake Creek:
6.4 mi /
From Aspen, drive east on SH82 over the summit of Independence Pass and continue down the east side of the pass to the last switchback where the highway drops into the North Lake Creek valley. Just below the last switchback, there's a turnoff to the left (east) that's a short dirt road that leads to trailhead parking for several vehicles in 100 yards or so. This is just under 5 miles from the summit of the pass. The trailhead parking has a wood rail fence. The short drive in may have some potholes.
If coming from the Front Range, turn west from US24 onto SH82 and drive west past Twin Lakes, continuing up along the Lake Fork until the highway makes the first switchback to begin the climb up Independence Pass. Just before that switchback, turn right (east) onto the dirt road that leads to the trailhead parking in 100 yards or so. This measures about 19 miles from US24/SH82 turnoff.
Camping at the trailhead parking area is not good. If you can get your vehicle across the creek here, there's a faded track that leads up to a primitive site in some trees. Otherwise, there are designated National Forest campgrounds at Parry Peak and Twin Peaks campgrounds back towards Twin Lakes. We recommend a primitive site that has numerous camping possibilities about 2.4 miles back south on SH82 from the trailhead where a diversion tunnel empties water into the Lake Creek at these coordinates: N 39° 04' 54.99" W 106° 32' 21.86". About a half mile north of there is another smaller area on the west side of the highway at these coordinates: N 39° 05' 15.72" W 106° 32' 32.28".
Graham Gulch ›
N 39° 04' 54.99", W 106° 32' 21.86"
Year Climbed: 1991
The route we followed for this hike was basically that found in G&M. The Roach's have this route in their Thirteeners book as well. Any variations come mainly from the start and working through the trees before breaking out at treeline.
The simplest way to start this hike is to locate a jeep single track that leads south from the North Fork Lake Creek trailhead. This 4WD track drops down to the creek and does a low-water crossing, then cuts through some willows to a stand of trees where there is a campsite. From the edge of the trees, a trail leads north which can be followed all the way up to where the stream in Lackawanna Gulch comes down to the valley floor. A higher clearance 4WD will be needed to ford the stream and before runoff season subsides, it may not be possible to get across. Do not cross the stream in Lackawanna Gulch. Before reaching the stream, try to locate an old road that switchbacks up through the trees and remains on the south side of that stream. With beetle-kill issues, getting up through the forest will be the most difficult aspect of this hike. If this start does not work because of high water, use the directions provided by Roach, but they warn as well that when water is high, fording the stream may be impractical. If that's the case, then drive back down south on SH82 to where the road crosses to the east side of the North Fork. Park and hike along the base of the mountain north until you intersect the stream coming out of Lackawanna Gulch. Willows may be a factor in this option.
Once the old road has been located, follow it east up through the forest. You can leave the road at 11,100 ft. as Roach suggests, or continue east until you gain the NNW ridge. In either case, gain the NNW ridge at about 12,000 feet where there will be a deeply entrenched gully. Stay on the ridge on the west side and turn south for a while before angling SSE to gain the main ridge. Follow the ridge to a "soft-rank" point of 13,660 ft. BAg it if you want or bypass on the west side and drop to a saddle at 13,380 ft. Bypass another point of 13,590 ft. on the west side and contour to yet another saddle at 13,540 ft. Continue south now to the true summit. Most all of the hiking is on low tundra, embedded rock or sometimes rubble. The summit view will offer a nice perspective of this section of the Sawatch with La Plata to the SE attracting the most attention. Return as you came or for some fun and a diversion, as you head back down the NNW ridge, between points 13,590 and 13,660, drop NE into the south fork of Lackawanna Gulch, hike down to the stream and head back down along the stream on the south side. In earlier season, you should be able to find some nice snow in here for a glissade of some distance.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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