Camp in American Basin & Hike Handies Peak
Colorado › American Basin Trailhead
Added by Greg Owens
Summit of a Colorado 14er (14,048')5.5 miles roundtrip with ~2500' of elevation gainSpectacular viewsIncredible summer wildflowersGood camping by a mountain stream
Handies Peak (14,048’) might be the easiest of the 14ers in the San Juans to climb, but its gorgeous setting high above the incredible wildflowers of American Basin make it more than worthwhile.
From Lake City, drive along Lake Cristobol to the southern entry for the Alpine Loop and head toward Cinnamon Pass. The road is two-wheel-drive for several miles before getting rougher. Near the junction for American Basin, the road gets considerably rougher, and the final mile to the trailhead requires four-wheel-drive and high-clearance.
There are a few spots to camp at and near the trailhead. Because of the ease of the summit route and because of the brilliant wildflowers, American Basin can be busy, so plan ahead if you want to get a campsite.
From the trailhead (~11,600’), the route climbs steadily to Sloan Lake, a good place to stop for a quick snack and a great view. After the lake, the route climbs across a talus slope and then onto a fairly easy slope that continues to the summit, where great views of American Basin, Sloan Lake, Mount Sneffels (14,150’), Uncompahgre Peak (14,309’), and Wetterhorn Peak (14,015’) await. One-way, the trail climbs about 2500 feet over about 2.75 miles.
- Trekking pole or walking stick
- Sleeping bag
- Camping gear
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lack of 4WD?
Looking to do Handies Peak in late June with my 7 and 10 year old. We are without a 4WD vehicle. It sounds like the last mile to get to the trailhead would be difficult to pass without a 4WD vehicle. My question is if it would possible to park our car and then hike with our camping gear to the trail head or hitch a ride with someone in 4WD for that last mile? Or any other suggestions...
Timing Is Everything
My hiking partner and I camped and hiked in late July 2016 and couldn't have hoped for a better experience. The wildflowers were in full bloom, the weather was warm and not windy, and there was no chance for thunderstorms. This all really enhanced the hiking experience, definitely my favorite Colorado hike!
While the drive here can be a little difficult and require high clearance 4WD, it's a relatively easy hike for a 14er. The wildflowers in the basin are insane and especially concentrated around the creek. The TH and camping area is above treeline so storm protection is more limited.
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