Vasquez Peak

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

Getting There

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 Route

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!

Not a cloud in the sky that morning!
The view once you get onto the Continental Divide Trail.

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.

At the beginning of the steep part.
The view from Vasquez Pass looking west.

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.

Heading up the steep unnamed peak.
Looking back at Stanley Mountain.

Eventually, Vasquez Peak started to come more into view. But their was still plenty of work to be done!

Vasquez Peak!

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.

The surrounding mountains.
Just below the summit.

Reaching the summit was definitely a welcome and much earned site!

The Summit

The summit.

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.

Another summit view.

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.

Looking back at Vasquez Peak.
One last zoom in photo of the mountain peaks off to the west.
Where I slid down from.
The snowy area I got through.

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.

Looking over at Stanley Mountain on the way back.
To truly give you an idea about how steep this section is. Not for the faint of heart!
One last picture before I began the long journey back to Stanley Mountain.

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.

Looking back at the unnamed peak while nearly to the top of Stanley Mountain.
Mountain Goat living the high life!

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.

One last look back at Vasquez Peak from the Continental Divide Trail.

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!

Author: David Higham

Spending time in nature calms my soul.

3 thoughts on “Vasquez Peak”

  1. Wow!!! Awesome hike!! I know where Berthoud trailhead is, Any idea how far it is to Stanley mountain? Vasquez Peak is out of my solo hiking range for sure but I’m wondering if it is worth just hiking to Stanley and back?

    1. It was a pretty awesome day!! I think from Berthoud Pass to Stanley Mountain and back is pretty close to eight miles. I think you would probably like it because it has a little bit of everything. The only somewhat difficult section was that one spot where you can see all the switchbacks ahead of you but after that it’s pretty easy hiking along the Continental Divide.

      1. Sounds good! I’m going to be visiting my son in Denver in a few weeks and I always take some time for a hike or two. Since I will probably be solo hiking this time I’m not wanting to hike all day long and a great distance! Trying to keep it under 5 miles, but 8 isn’t to bad! Thanks for the information!!! I just keep adding places to my list!!!

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