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Colorado 14ers: Handies Peak

Solitude rules on this remote trek through wildflower meadows to a skyscraping post above the rugged backcountry of the San Juan Mountains.

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Pity the fools who traverse Handies during the annual Hardrock Hundred sado-marathon: By the time many runners reach the summit, it’s pitch dark and they miss a peak-filled panorama that our local experts voted No. 1 in the state, beating out Pikes Peak and other well-known lookouts. This remote point scrapes the sky near Lake City (pop. 375) in the heart of the northern San Juans.

Four more Fourteeners are close at hand, and on a clear day a sharp-eyed climber can pick out at least a dozen others, from lonely Mt. Sneffels in the west to the Sangre de Cristo Range peaks in the east; from the sharp Needles in the south to the pyramids of the Elk Range, far to the north. Apart from abandoned mining roads, there’s no sign of humans—the view might as well be in the Yukon, not crowded Colorado. For maximum impact, go in July when legendary wildflower display is peaking; above, cornices still cling to the leeward edges of high ridges and white snow dapples the tundra slopes. And, for the love of Mr. T, go during daytime.

-Text by Dougal MacDonald
-Mapped by Kim Phillips and Patsy Fellman

To Trailhead

From Lake City, take on CO 149 S to CR 30. In 12.5 mi., bear R @ Y onto Shelf Rd./CR 4. Go 3.8 mi. and park in area on E side of road.

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