Stanley Mountain

Located within the Vasquez Peak Wilderness area, the hike to the summit of Stanley Mountain is a truly remarkable one. Standing at 12,521 feet, it proved to be a great challenging hike, especially considering the fact that their was still a decent amount of snow until I managed to get above treeline.

Here’s some more info about my hike that day:

  • Date Hiked: June 25th, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: 7.9 Miles
  • Total Elevation Change: 1,214 Feet
  • Summit Elevation: 12,521 Feet

Getting There

Stanley Mountain can be accessed from Berthoud Pass just off of US Highway 40. At the pass, you will find plenty of parking and restrooms. Once there, you simply have to carefully cross the highway and follow the trail as it begins its ascent into the Vasquez Peak Wilderness Area.

Alternatively, you can also access Stanley Mountain by driving to a parking area that is near the Henderson Mine and hike up from there on a well defined trail.

The Journey

From the start of the trail until I got above treeline, it was nothing but scattered patches of both snow and snow drifts. At one point, I even encountered a snow drift that was about four feet tall on the trail. So, I was pretty much forced to follow the footsteps of several other people who attempted it before I did, and even bushwhack at times too.

Scattered deep snow drifts.
A deep snow drift on the trail.

The views really started to open up above treeline. I was quite relieved to be above treeline that day because it was a genuine struggle. But it was so worth it. I’m super glad I didn’t turn around and found the motivation within me!

Looking towards the east.
Still quite a bit of snow!

Only one particularly steep section stood out to me on this hike. It looks more difficult than it actually was. And once I got past this section of zigzagging switchbacks, it was smooth sailing to the summit.

Steep switchbacks with snow at the top.

While hiking through the switchbacks, I also happened to stumble upon several Ptarmigans. Additionally, a marmot also came out of seemingly nowhere and ran up the trail ahead of me before it disappeared.

Ptarmigan out living its best life.

At the top of the switchbacks, I finally reached the top of the ridge. Right at this point, the wind started to pick up and was just absolutely brutal. Also, the snow was almost completely melted off the trail, except for one small snowfield a bit further ahead. Everything else could be easily avoided.

The journey ahead.
Looking towards the northeast.
Getting closer to the summit!

Luckily enough, the weather also held off the entire time while I was above treeline.

A picturesque day!

The Summit

Overall. the views from the summit were pretty neat. I probably sat up there for a good 15 minutes or so before I decided to explore some of the surrounding area.

Looking down on the Henderson Mine area.
Looking to the west.
The actual summit.

So before I turned around, I started to descend down towards Vasquez Pass just out of curiosity to see just how steep it was. The path down is actually well marked with cairns. Ultimately, I decided to turn around as I figured storms would start to form at anytime due to the fact that it was already almost noon.

The Return Trip

Overall, the trip back to Berthoud Pass was eventful in that it involved doing some more bushwhacking and watching some thunderstorms form nearby. Also on my way back, I noticed that their were still some cornices at the edges of several of the ridges that looked pretty deep!

Watching a storm forming to the south.
Pretty big cornice.
Getting closer to Berthoud Pass.

Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. I will most likely hike out this way again when I head up to Vasquez Peak later on this summer. I’d definitely recommend this hike to anybody too. It was hard but not overwhelming at all. It was a pretty rewarding 12er with great views nearly the entire way too. Definitely a day well spent!

Author: David Higham

Spending time in nature calms my soul.

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