San Miguel Peak – 13,757


RT Length: 10.69 miles

Elevation Gain:  3834’

Wow!  What a busy trailhead!  There was parking, and overflow parking, and parking along the side of the road, and all spots were full.  I was lucky enough to snag a spot as someone was leaving directly in front of the trailhead sign.  The trailhead is at 10,700’, and I planned to spend the night here before hiking the next morning (there was only 1 other vehicle in the lot when I got up the next morning to hike)


I’d already had a long day but it was early, so I ate dinner, got out a glass of whiskey, and jotted down some trip notes from my hike today.  There were dogs barking and tons of people coming back from their hikes.  I even saw one family of 4 (and a dog) setting out.  I thought it was a little late to set out for the hike, but they looked like they were backpacking in and planned to camp at the lake.  I guess it’s better to hike after 3pm when it’s cooler (and there was still about 3 hours of daylight left:  they had a good chance of making it in time).  The kids (both under 10 years old) were thrilled, and bouncing up and down, ready to head out.  They kind of reminded me of my kids when they were little:  full of energy and excited to be outside, everything new and exciting.  Now when we go camping as a family we’ve done it so much we all have our ‘roles’ and everything just kind of happens. It’s no longer novel, but I do have some great campers (and fire starters, outdoor cooks, etc.).  My 20 year old son still makes a tradition of climbing the tallest tree he can find just to prove he can, a tradition he started at 5 years old.  Bravo to this family for starting them young!

I talked with a bunch of hikers and made it an early night.  Bonus:  the mouse that had been residing in my truck must have left because I didn’t hear a squeak all night.

I was up and on the trail by 4:45am.


This is a class 1 trail that goes for 2.5 miles to Hope Lake.


The only downside here all the willows/bushes lining the trails:  I was the first one out this morning and got spiderwebs in the face to prove it.  After the third web I started pole swinging…


I made it to Hope Lake just as the sun was coming up.


This lake isn’t much to look at in the morning, but once the sun came up it was beautiful!  I made my way west, following the lake.  Here I saw a tent set up, presumably for the family I saw hiking in last night.  I tried to be quiet and not disturb them as I walked right past their tent and followed the lake.  I wanted to cross the dam here, but the water level was too high to allow me to walk along the shoreline


So instead I gained the ridge and made my way over to the dam.


As I was gaining the ridge the family’s dog came up to me.  It was nice, I gave it a pet, and was on my way, wondering to myself why the dog wasn’t sleeping inside the tent with the family?  It wasn’t a large dog, and would totally have fit with them inside their tent.  Also, not much of a guard dog:  it licked my hand and didn’t bark once.  I was confident the family was still asleep as I passed their tent again to gain the ridge. I followed the ridge to the dam, crossed the dam, and headed southwest up the side of the mountain (note, there is a lot of old ‘trash’ here:  tin cans and cast iron and the like).


There were a few cairns here, but I basically just followed the gully southwest up the mountain



As I was hiking I erroneously believed this was the summit of San Miguel Peak. It’s not.  I ended up going straight up the face, but here’s the way you should go instead:


Once at the top you’ll see a ridge.  The ridge goes for about 500 feet.  I followed it…


And at the end came to an unexpected drop off.



This is where the hike became interesting.  I looked at my options and I felt going right was safer than going left.  (the left side of the mountain absolutely looks summitable, just more loose and time consuming).  Here’s the route I took to the summit. Note:  This was class 3 climbing, and on my way up I stuck to the solid rock (as opposed to the scree filled gully… the rocks were still loose here).  Luckily I’d brought a helmet.  I put it on and started towards the gully.


I summited San Miguel Peak at 8:30am (this one didn’t have a great place to set my camera…)


San Miguel Peak:

Time to head back down.  I took a slightly different approach on the way down, following this track (mainly because at the summit I found a cairn indicating this was the ‘trail’ and started off in that direction…)


Here’s what it looked like, and I’d like to note neither way was better than the other (one was more exposed but on relatively stable rock, the other was on loose scree over rocks)




Back up to the ridge



And then back down to Lake Hope






This time, when I got to the lake I crossed the dam, and then just went over the hill, heading northeast until I came to the trail I’d hiked in on… passing a lot of old mining trash along the way. I could hear the family that had been camping having a grand old time:  the kids were obviously thrilled with their adventure, and the parents were too.  They genuinely sounded happy (I could hear their excited exclamations from the summit all the way back down to the lake).  Once again, rock on mom and dad!  Well done!



Once back at the trail, I followed it back to the trailhead.  I passed dozens of people hiking.  Every one of them had a dog, and more than half were obsessed with their masks (not judging, just stating).  There were tons of kids out, and they all looked miserable.  Who starts a hike with kids in the afternoon and expects them to be ‘excited’ hiking while they’re miserable and hot?  I’ve been a park ranger, scout leader, and a mom, and I can tell you from experience, hike early or late, but don’t do the bulk of your hiking between 11-3pm if you want happy little hikers.





I made it back to my truck at 11:15am, making this a 10.69 mile hike with 3834’ of elevation gain in 6.5 hours.


This had been a fabulous morning, it was early and I wasn’t tired, so… on to the next trailhead!

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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