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Backpacker Magazine – May 2010

Colorado Trail: Top Peaks

The top peaks for every type of hiker.

by: Kristy Holland, maps by Andrew Matranga

The Colorado Trail. (Andrew Matranga)
The Colorado Trail. (Andrew Matranga)
Vestal and Arrow peaks. (Todd Caudle)
Vestal and Arrow peaks. (Todd Caudle)
San Luis Peak. (Todd Caudle)
San Luis Peak. (Todd Caudle)

With an average elevation of 10,000 feet, this high-wire footpath arrows through–and to–an embarrassment of alpine riches. More than 500 peaks higher than 12,000 feet sit within striking distance, creating a problem: which ones to target. Solution: our rankings, based on voting by local mountaineers, guidebook authors, and two of the 16 people to climb all 637 of Colorado’s Thirteeners. In each superlative category below, the favorites loom higher according to rank.

Best Summit Views (Circle)
1) Vestal Peak (13,783 feet)
Choosing the best vista in these parts is like choosing the best painting in the Louvre. Why Vestal? This quartzite steeple is the highest peak in the Grenadier Range, a north-south offshoot overlooking the aptly named Needle Range. The price? One of the toughest climbs of any peak near the CT (see right).

2) Grand Turk (13,149 feet)

The three-pronged summit of Grand Turk puts you eye to eye with the state’s densest cluster of peaks higher than 13,000 feet. From Little Molas Lake, hike 1.5 miles to the prominent saddle. Head northeast one mile to dip into two more saddles, then reach the high-def view of the San Juan Range and Silverton’s mile-wide Animas River valley.

3) Mt. Elbert  (14,426 feet)
Climb 4,013 feet from the CT to the state’s highpoint to see neighboring 14,386-foot Mt. Massive with the Arkansas River valley sprawling below. The uncomplicated five-mile round-trip branches west off the CT just north of Box Creek, 1.4 miles south of the Mt. Elbert trailhead.

4. Storm King Peak (13,737 feet)
5. Windy Peak
(11,929 feet)
6. Peak X 
(12,424 feet)
7. Mt. Massive 
(14,386 feet)
8. Half Peak 
(13,809 feet)
9. Snowdon Peak (13,074 feet)
10. San Luis Peak (14,002 feet)

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