The hardest part about this hike, besides the last mile of course, was getting there. Let me tell you, they’re not playing around when they state 4WD only. It was insane! I saw several people with flat tires on the road. And be sure, if you plan to take this hike, that you do NOT google map it. The 4WD road they put you on is even more intense. Everyone in my vehicle was a bit scared we weren’t going to make it (I’m proud of my Tundra!). Use 120 road instead!
This is a 16.6 mile trail with 5,394 feet in elevation gain (don’t believe the .com’s statement of 11 miles…. it’s a lot more. Be prepared.
We got all our gear ready before going to bed the night before, and got up at 2:30am to make it to the trailhead by sunrise (5:30am). After the eventful 4WD trip to the trailhead we signed the register, crossed a bridge, and were on our way.
The first 2.5 miles went straight up an old service road. It was covered in waterfalls, water, and flowers. Beautiful! If a little slippery. Make sure you have waterproof hiking boots. It was here I stopped to take off my jacket, and ended up accidentally leaving my sunglasses (to be picked up at the end of the hike).
After 2.5 miles we came to a sign indicating the trail split. Crestone Peak and Needle went left, Humboldt right. We went right and continued up the trail.
Right at about this area the trail was littered with fallen trees. They were pretty easy to go over (or under). Then there was a boulder field and we were dropped into the Colony Lakes Area.
The views were nothing short of amazing. We hiked in absolute awe.
Much of the trail was covered with snow. This only got us into trouble twice. Once before Colony Lakes and once about ½ a mile from the summit.
While there wasn’t a lot of snow on the trail, where there wasn’t snow there was water.
After passing the lakes the trail turned steeply to the right. and you could see Humboldt Peak.
It was very well maintained for much of this trek. Lots of work has been put into this part of the trail! It is pretty steep, however.
The ‘trouble’ started when we reached the saddle. While there wasn’t much snow, it was over the trail and made it impossible to find (on the way up, we found it just fine on the way down). Here’s a tip: Stay to the right! It really looks like the trail goes to the left, but don’t take it. We did (and so did 3 groups before us) and it made the hike much harder. We were bouldering where we shouldn’t have been. Stay right.
At this point the girls were getting really tired, but this is where I need to speed up to keep my blood moving. I went ahead about 10 yards and stopped to wait for them. They decided to take a 20 minute break (I wasn’t aware of this). I was frantic wondering what happened to them, went back, found them, and continued on. It got really cold at this point. I’d been standing still for 20 minutes in the cold. This marmot cheered me up though. He was licking the rock.
The wind picked up and it couldn’t have been more than 20 degrees. My fingers started turning white and I was having a hard time bouldering (we were obviously in the wrong place). So I looked around, got my bearings, and led the girls over the ridge, found the trail, and we made it!
There was a small shelter made out of stones, really just there to block the wind so you could rest for a minute or two before heading down (it didn’t block much wind).
Here’s a 360 degree view from the summit
We didn’t spend much time on the summit, mainly because it was cold. We quickly found the correct trail down, conveniently marked with multiple large cairns which would have been easy to see if we’d have stayed right instead of going left. ‘
The trail was just as steep heading down as it was heading up, and the views were just as magnificent. We stopped at the lakes for lunch, then continued the rest of the way.
The trip back down seemed to go on forever, probably because the trip was 5 miles longer than the beta had suggested. Especially those last 2.5 miles! It was hot, we were tired, and my eyes hurt (no sunglasses, remember?). We followed the stream, cooled off a bit from time to time, and eventually found my sunglasses. They were just where I’d left them, and had spent their time enjoying the waterfall while we’d been hiking.