Handies Peak Route Guide | An Easy Class 1 Hike
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 Route Guide.
Handies Peak Route Guide Fast Facts
Handies Peak Route Guide - Southwest Slopes
My Handies Peak Route Guide starts from the beginning… 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.
Once around the ridge, you’ll see the far end of the Basin. 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.
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.
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.
From the ridge, follow the trail towards the summit. here are several switchbacks to weave around rocks – stay on the trail.
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.
No Handies Peak Route Guide is complete without a topographical map. Print this out to bring a hard copy and download it on your phone too for a backup.
Take the time to research weather conditions before you head out on your hike or climb. Below is a good source to get weather information for Handies Peak and other fourteeners.
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.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my Handies Peak route guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.