Just a 30 min drive from Lake City, this fairly remote hike provides great views and a welcome escape from more eastern 14ers. Lake City itself, overrun throughout the summer by Jeep-driving Texan tourists, is a great place to spend a weekend.
Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife
This is a long hike, mostly in the sun. Bring plenty of sun protection and be ready to spend a lot of time above 14,000 ft. Fast hikers can expect a 5 hr trip, while slower ones should be ready to spend 12 hrs on the trail.
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 on excellent dirt road. In about 8 miles, the road will pass above a ghost town, at which point it will become a shelf road with 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 total, 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 2 more miles up the road to American Basin or take the alternate route from this trailhead.
On the right of the road is a clear trail toward Redcloud Peak
. Hike up an excellent, gradual trail from about 10,500 ft. Walk through the trees before coming to a basin drainage around 11,100 ft. Drop down and walk just left of a large creek, mostly staying on a clear trail but occasionally crossing some talus. At 12,000 ft, walk up a couple steep switchbacks before coming into a wide basin. Once in the basin, continue up prime singletrack until about 12,400, where the trail starts to switchback up steeper slopes to the saddle at 13,000 ft.
Head to the right of the saddle. The trail gets steeper, but switchbacks along rocky trail keep it from getting unpleasant. Reach a false summit at 13,000 ft. The actual summit is up to the left and a mere 5-10 mins away. The geology here changes from gray to red rock, giving Redcloud its name. Hike up the red dirt to the summit.
From here, drop down the opposite side of Redcloud. Follow an obvious low class 2 trail, right along the ridge, toward the 13,500 ft saddle with Sunshine Peak
. From here, the trail stays just to the right of the ridge. Continue back up toward Sunshine, cresting a flat area at 13,700 ft before the grade starts back up. There aren't any false summits on this one - just gun it back to 14K!
Once on top, turn around and do it all backwards. While some hikers will see that they just made a giant "U" track and be tempted to descend right into the drainage, this is a poor decision. The west side of Sunshine is steep and composed of loose scree. It will be safer, faster, and more fun just to retrace your tracks.
Passing through a lush forest at the bottom, you're likely to stumble across deer blocking the trail. Once in the basin, the wildflowers are stunning. There are plenty of marmots and pika here, too.