Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

Of all the 14ers, Handies peak takes the cake as the easiest to hike. However, it comes with a few asterisks. First, you need a 4WD car capable of creek crossings (high clearance) to make it to the upper trailhead. Otherwise add 2 miles 300 feet of elevation gain. The American Basin is famous for its summer wildflower blooms – that alone makes it worth the long drive to the San Juans for this classic climb. Here’s a good place to start your research below in my Handies Peak Standard Route Guide.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Handies Peak Fast Facts

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

If you don’t have a 4WD car, or don’t feel comfortable driving through a creek, park in one of the nearby areas and hike up the 1 mile road to the trailhead. Take the well-maintained route up and around a large ridge that lies in front of you.

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

Once around the ridge, you’ll see the far end of the Basin. This great photo shows much of the route ahead of you. Cross a small creek and then hike around an outcrop. During summer months, you’ll find some great wildflower views in this part of the trail.

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

You’ll find yourself at the bottom of a slope with a series of switchbacks heading up. Follow the path and take care not to cut switchbacks At the top, take a sharp left.

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

Head across a steep talus slope at the end of the basin. You’ll find a solid trail here to use – no scrambling required. Take a right once back on grassy slopes to meet the ridge leading to the Handies summit.

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

From the ridge, follow the trail towards the summit. here are several switchbacks to weave around rocks – stay on the trail. 

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

The summit lies just a few hundred feed ahead! Follow the sandy trail to the top and enjoy your accomplishment! Make sure you begin to descend early enough to ensure you’re back to the trailhead before afternoon thunderstorms become a problem.

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

I hope you enjoyed my Handies Peak Standard Route Guide. How was your hike up the mountain? Do you think I missed anything important? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts with the Next Summit Community!

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

​Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

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About the Author: Alex Derr

Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.