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!

Bison Peak

Located in the Lost Creek Wilderness area of Colorado, the hike to the summit of 12,431 foot Bison Peak in the Tarryall Mountains was absolutely remarkable. It was really unlike anywhere else that I have been. The scenery is so unique that it almost feels out of place with everything else. With very few people around, the solitude just made me feel at peace.

Here’s some more info about my hike:

  • Date Hiked: June 18th, 2019
  • Miles Hiked: Around 13 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy class 1
  • Total Elevation Change: 3,671 Feet

Getting There

From Denver, take US Highway 285 west over Kenosha Pass until you reach Jefferson, Colorado. Specifically, you will want to take a left onto Park County Road 77 which is also known as Tarryall Road. The Ute Creek Trailhead is on this road on the left once you go just over 3 miles past the Tarryall Reservoir.

The Journey

Although I did not arrive at the trailhead until shortly after 9am, I figured I would be in for an adventure. And I was not disappointed! The first several miles are relatively easy as I first crossed the bridge over the creek and walked through some meadows. But before I did that, I made sure to fill out a free permit before entering the wilderness area.

Overlooking the creek from the bridge by the trailhead.
The steady uphill climb begins!

Once I got several miles up the trail, the weather conditions changed quickly. In a span of about 25 minutes, it went from being sunny to mostly cloudy with a hailstorm looming close by. I wasn’t too scared though as I decided to hide under a rock for a little while until the weather improved.

Can’t believe I really hid under this rock!

At times, this hike really seemed like a struggle. But with every step, the scenery and view of the surrounding valleys and mountains continued to get better! Soon enough, I was able to see areas above treeline too.

A steep portion of the trail.
Caught a glimpse of the area above treeline while still deep in the woods.
Took a right at this sign to continue up the trail.

Before long, I finally found myself above treeline. And the scenery was truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Above Treeline

Upon reaching the treeline, I was treated with views of the snow capped peaks of the Mosquito Range directly to the west. In addition to that, it looked as if more storms were forming out there as well.

View of the Mosquito Range.
The amazing scenery coming into view.

After reaching the meadow, the scenery really opens up around you. Even though it was an extremely snowy year, a wide majority of the snow had already melted, except for a three foot snow drift just below the summit that was easily avoidable.

Unique geology with Bison Peak in the distance.
Looking back from further up towards the summit.
Such a cool place!
View from just below the summit.
The view from the summit.

After I made it to the summit, I sat up there for nearly half an hour. It was completely comforting just being out in the wilderness with nobody around you at all. As a matter of fact, I only saw three other people during my entire hike that day.

With another round of afternoon thunderstorms beginning to move in, I figured it was time to get on with it and head back down the mountain. So I signed my name in the journal at the summit and took a picture of the summit marker before calling it good.

A storm moving in while beginning my descent.
A unique viewpoint.
Probably the best picture I took that day.

In all, it took me about six or seven hours to complete this hike. Although it was strenuous, the views and the surrounding landscapes were totally worth it. I would definitely recommend hiking to the summit of Bison Peak to anybody and personally look forward to doing it again sometime.