This Lake City 14er provides a great payoff for the effort. Just a short, all terrain, drive from Redcloud and Sunshine
, it's also a good follow-up for a single day hike, should you have the time.
Features: Lake — River/Creek — Swimming — Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
This entire hike is above treeline, so bring your sunscreen. The drive into American Basin is at times as technical as the hike, so don't even consider it unless you have a 4WD car with good clearance.
Fast hikers should take around two to three hrs round trip, with slower hikers clocking in at around five hrs.
From Lake City, drive 2 miles south on CO 149. Turn right onto the alpine loop scenic byway, AKA County Road 30. Pass by a lake before the road turns to dirt. Most 2WD cars will be fine although some clearance may be necessary up high.
Continue along an excellent dirt road. In about eight miles, the road will pass above a ghost town, at which point it will become a shelf road with a 1,000 ft drop off the left side. Drive carefully! In a few miles, the road will become less exposed.
After about 18 miles of dirt road, you'll come to the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch Trailhead, where there is ample parking, a bathroom, and fire pit. Park here to access Redcloud Peak
and Sunshine Peak
. To access Handies Peak, drive about two more miles up the road to American Basin.
Beyond this point, 4WD or at least good clearance is advisable. In about two miles, turn left at a fork at a sign for American Basin. Continuing straight will put you on Cinnamon Pass, which is an extremely difficult 4WD road. If you don't have a 4WD car with good clearance, park shortly after this turn. A good driver with a Subaru Outback or better can cross a creek and continue up the rocky road about a mile, parking in a decent size lot.
From the American Basin trailhead, hike east up an excellent trail with the odd rock here and there. Head south up some switchbacks, passing between rock patches on a clear trail. Angle toward the right end of the basin before coming to a lake on your right at 13,100 ft. This is an awesome spot for a dip on the way back down.
Hike about 300 ft up on some more switchbacks. Continue across some talus to the left, gaining only a little ground before returning to grassy slopes. Hike up some steep switchbacks to reach the saddle at 13,500 ft between Handies Peak to your left and Point, 13,588 ft, to your right.
From here, simply hike up on the excellent trail with the steepest pitch along a gravelly trail right below the summit.
From the top, enjoy the excellent San Juan views. Don't forget to stop for a swim on the way back down!
From stunning San Juan wildflowers to marmots, this is a great route for scenery.