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Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Handies Peak (14, 048 ft) is located near Silverton, Colorado and just happened to be my first “14er” I’ve summited! If you aren’t familiar with that term, it just means you’ve hiked a peak that is over 14,000 ft in elevation. There are 96 “14ers” in the US, and Colorado has the most at 57! One down, 56 to go!


Handies Peak is probably considered the easiest 14er, since it is only 7 miles RT and gains a mere 2,400 ft. Compared to other 14ers, this is considered a short summit, there is no scrambling, a well defined trail to the summit, and therefore is quite popular. The hardest part about hiking to Handies? The elevation. You start hiking around 11,600 ft, then summit at 14,048.
Because of this, some people experience altitude sickness or a shortness of breath. I have exercise induced asthma, and I really had to keep an eye on my heart rate and breathing so I wouldn’t have to use my inhaler – I struggled to keep my heart rate below 150. Even though my group of friends and I are used to hiking in higher elevations, we had never gone this high before so we just made sure to hike at a slower pace, take breather breaks, and drink plenty of water.
Dogs are allowed off leash, and there is plenty of water for them to drink from, and they can even swim in Sloan Lake. I was surprised to see several children on the summit. We met a father/son (8 years old) duo who regularly hikes big peaks together, and he had his own trekking poles, backpack, etc – it was so awesome to see!
 

Use this map if driving from Silverton, CO.

Since the GPS may not work with these dirt roads and when you lose service, here are the directions. From Silverton, CO head East on HWY 2 for 8 miles towards Animas Fork, CO. Follow all signs for Cinnamon Pass. Once over the pass, continue on HWY 5 until you see the sign for American Basin. Drive to the very end of the road where the trail for Handies Peak starts. You WILL need a high clearance, 4×4, car past Eureka. As soon as you make the sharp turn for Cinnamon Pass the road gets really rough. The drive from Silverton to American Basin will take about 1 hour 15-30 minutes.

Distance: 7 miles RT

Elevation gain: 2,471 ft

Time: 4-6 hours

Dog friendly? Yes, off leash

Kid friendly? Yes, I saw several kids under 10 on the summit but it depends on their experience

Fees/Permits? None

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

The road does require 4×4 drive – there are several warning signs. We had a Toyota Tacoma and that worked great. This is one of the nicer sections of the road.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Follow Cinnamon Pass (HWY 5) road until you reach the turnoff for American Basin.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

The trailhead starts at the end of the road in American Basin. You can also park further down the road then walk up. There is plenty of free, dispersed camping in the area. Backpacking is allowed on this trail.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

The trail starts by heading south, towards American Basin.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Only 3/4 mile in and we needed a breather break!

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

The views start to open around mile 1, then you will hike up a few small, steep switchbacks as the trail turns East.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

From this point, you should be able to see the false summit of Handies, just below the cloud in the top of the photo.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

The trail briefly turns South again, and up a steep hill.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Sloan Lake!

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

From Sloan Lake, you should be able to see the trail and people coming down.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

This section is rocky, and you will descend a little bit. You can clearly see the trail across there now.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

I guess there used to be an original/old trail to the summit. This has now been closed off for revegetation.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Hike up a few long switchbacks.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Looking down to my friends making their way up.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

At the saddle looking into the East basin, Boulder Gulch!

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Hiking up higher and higher….

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

I’ve gotta be there by now, right?!

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

On the summit with my buddies!

Poor Charlie had to miss out since he had a foxtail removed by surgery 🙁 I was really looking forward to summiting together, but he stayed home with his dad to recover.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

Looking North down into Grizzly Gulch – you could also take this route to summit Handies Peak. Both are about the same distance.

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

My first 14er!

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Handies Peak trail map via American Basin

 

Ice Lakes Basin

Only 5 miles of a drive from Silverton, CO!

Hiking to Ice Lakes Basin, Colorado

Save me on Pintereset!

Hiking to Handies Peak, Colorado

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