UN 13,828, aka: Huerfano Peak, is located north of the 14er, Mt. Lindsey. It is easily accessed by using much of the standard Huerfano Creek route to Mt. Lindsey which begins with the Lily Lake trailhead. The route follows the SW ridge of the peak past the "Iron Nipple," and has a Class 2 rating. This approach offers a chance to scramble up the Iron Nipple on the way to Huerfano. The Lily Lake TH is accessible by 4WD with good clearance, but be sure and read up on the trailhead access because of landslide damage done to the road in 2016 and check road conditions before going. We revisited this area in 2019 and found no problems.
Huerfano Peak SW Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Lily Lake/Huerfano Creek TH:
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.
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, however, you will come to the landslide damage area before then. Continue 2 more miles to the Lily Lake TH for the upper valley summits or stop at the Huerfano TH for California Peak at these coordinates: N 37° 38' 20" W 105° 28' 16". 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.
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.
Huerfano Creek ›
N 37° 38' 13.43", W 105° 28' 16.50"
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 1988
Note: It may be advisable to supplement our description with that posted on 14ers.com since much of the Huerfano route follows the Mt. Lindsey standard route. The Lily Lake trail takes out through forest and then quickly arrives at a large meadow which we found filled with bright yellow flowers in one area in 2009. There is little elevation gain so you can move quickly. After the trail leaves the meadow, it re-enters the forest and continues to the turnoff for Lily Lake to the right after a mile. Do not go up the Lily Lake trail. Remain on the lower valley trail another 100 yards or so. There may be several places which people choose to use for crossing. The trail for Lindsey will cross the river in this vicinity. We thought the best place to cross was a little farther upstream where it makes a pronounced bend to the west and the water is calmer. There is no bridge or logs, usually, so this will likely be a wader unless later in the season. The trail up Lindsey, once faint when we climbed it many years ago (prior to 1983) is now well established (2009 & 2019). It first parallels the river for another quarter mile, then pulls steadily and steeply up through forest, following on the north side of a tributary drainage to the Huerfano River with a talus field on your left. After one fairly steep section, it opens into the upper, tundra filled basin. Mount Lindsey lays off to the SE and peeks above the eastern skyline while Blanca Peak dominates the view to the SW. The Blanca-Ellingwood headwall is indeed very impressive.
As you head up the tundra valley, you may see some animals moving about. We cautiously approached them using small hills as a barrier to conceal our approach. The animals turned out to be Bighorn Sheep and there was a substantial group of them numbering over a dozen. Among them were several young sheep – at least three of which we were able to obtain a nice photo of. It turns out our caution was unwarranted. Probably because of the heavy and regular human traffic in this area climbing Mt. Lindsey, these sheep had become tolerant of humans and allowed us to approach rather closely. So we snapped numerous shots and then continued on our way.
Continue on the trail for Mt. Lindsey which will lead to a low point on the ridge that connects Mt. Lindsey and the Iron Nipple. Turn north and follow a much more faint trail toward Iron Nipple which will appear to offer a substantial barrier to making it to Huerfano Peak. Not to worry. Iron Nipple is not that difficult if you want to scramble to this unranked summit, (a little 3rd class work), or you can bypass the cliff barriers by dropping 175 feet on the east side of the ridge below the cliffs of Iron Nipple, then contour back up through fairly difficult talus back to the ridge and continue up the ridge NE. After a little more elevation gain, some tundra re-appears to make the route easier, but the final stretch to the summit has more rubble. From the summit, it is possible to continue north to Pt. 13,470 and Pt. 13,555. This ridge section offers 3rd class scrambling opportunities. A link to a report is posted below. Otherwise, return by the same route from whence you came. Roach offers a more detailed way to stay closer to the ridge at Iron Nipple that involves some elevation loss as well, but not as much. The route does not exceed Class 2+. For descent, it's best to return as you came and enjoy the splendid scenery.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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