Hiking through the Vasquez Peak Wilderness in order to reach 12,947 foot Vasquez Peak was certainly one hell of an adventure. It tested my stamina with the constant elevation change but I embraced the challenge. In fact, this hike was even referred to as the hardest hike in Grand County, Colorado. Here’s some more information:
- Date Hiked: July 9th, 2019
- Miles Hiked: 12.4 Miles
- Route: Berthoud Pass via the Continental Divide Trail and Stanley Mountain
Berthoud Pass is easily accessible from US Route 40 and offers some incredible hiking along the Continental Divide. The trail is on the west side of the road, so be careful and look both ways when crossing because it’s pretty much a blind curve!
The first part of this route follows the Continental Divide Trail and nearly reaches the summit of Stanley Mountain. But it’s all uphill for a little while until you get up onto the divide!
Now this is the part where things start to get interesting. Once I reached Stanley Mountain, it was time to descend to Vasquez Pass which is nearly 800 feet lower in elevation and quite steep. This part took what seemed like an eternity too.
From Vasquez Pass, I then went up the steep unnamed peak that is directly to the north of Stanley Mountain. It was pretty treacherous given the fact that a considerable amount of snow was still around.
Eventually, Vasquez Peak started to come more into view. But their was still plenty of work to be done!
At this point, it starts to flatten out a little bit before one more decent uphill section before reaching the summit. Even in early July when I hiked this, a lot of snow could still be found on the surrounding mountains.
Reaching the summit was definitely a welcome and much earned site!
The wind at the summit was absolutely ridiculous. It was gusting the entire 30 minutes that I was just sitting up there taking in the scenery. But it was so worth it.
Before long, I was on my way again and wondering if I would see any other people or wildlife in the next several hours.
The Return Trip
So I attempted to retrace my steps back but somehow took a wrong turn and found myself surrounded by snow. But I wasn’t worried and chose to slide down through it using my backpack.
I figure the trip back took about four hours. All of the continuous up and down hiking was starting to make me tired. But I persevered and got through it. I guess I didn’t realize just how steep the majority of this hike was until I was about to start descending the unnamed peak.
About an hour and a half later, I was finally back on the Continental Divide Trail and pretty close to the summit of Stanley Mountain. I was beginning to walk away when I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. And sure enough I was right! A mountain goat was lurking below the summit of Stanley Mountain enjoying the peaceful summer afternoon.
After finally departing from Stanley Mountain, the remainder of the hike back to my car at Berthoud Pass was rather uneventful. That stroll on the flat tundra and a few downhill sections allowed me to just put it in cruise control and relax.
Overall, it took me about 8 hours to complete. Additionally, I would recommend starting very early because most of this hike is completely exposed above treeline.
As I look back on it, this route to Vasquez Peak was both mentally and physically demanding. I am glad I challenged myself and conquered it!