Hiking Blanca Peak | A 14er with Breathtaking Views
Blanca Peak stands tall as the queen of the southern Rockies, 4th highest in the state overall. It is the center of the Blanca Mastiff, a large grouping of peaks that rise above the San Luis Valley and Great Sand Dunes. Hiking Blanca Peak isn’t easy. You must first get to Lake Como, and arduous hike in itself, before scrambling up to the summit. Start planning your trip with my Blanca Peak Route Guide – though it’s probably a good idea to check out at least a few other additional sources too before you head out on your climb. Best of luck!
Hiking Blanca Peak | Fast Facts
Hiking Blanca Peak - Northwest Ridge Route
Those hiking Blanca Peak begin by taking the Lake Como Road as far as your car is able. Park and head up the road. It’s 17 miles round-trip from the bottom of the road. If you have a 4WD and good clearance it’s possible to shave off a bit more. Park whenever you feel uncomfortable – be sure you are not blocking the road for others. Set out on the road and head up to Lake Como.
Along the road, near the lake, you’ll pass through several areas with large rocks and boulders known as the “Jaws”. These make driving all the way to the lake impossible for nearly most cars, including unmodified jeeps. Finally at Lake Como the road ends. This is a wonderful place to camp if you want to do this as an overnight. Skirt around the left of the lake and pickup the trail to start hiking Blanca Peak.
Begin picking your way up and over a series of moraines beyond Lake Como. The trail weaves around rock outcrops and along ledges, Look for cairns to find the right path forward if you get confused. The summit is hidden from view here to the right.
Reach a basin where a small waterfall runs down the wall ahead of you. Head to its left where a series of switchbacks brings you up and over the next moraine.
Come upon another alpine lake and walk along its shoreline as you pass into the highest part of the basin. Here the hiking will turn more into scrambling.
To ascend the headwall here, traverse to your right and follow the route through a series of rock ledges that takes the path of least resistance up to the saddle. The route will switchback as you go – look for cairns.
To reach the top you have a steep scramble up the Northwest Ridge of Blanca left to reach the summit. Take a right at the saddle and follow the cairns up. Take your time, and check the weather before you proceed and as you go.
Follow the final few hundred feet, the crux of the climb, and make a few Class 2+ moves that verge on true climbing and may seem exposed to some. The summit views are worth your effort!
Enjoy your time at the top, and leave yourself time to get to tree line before afternoon thunderstorms. If you have extra time, consider a traverse over to Ellingwood Point to bag two peaks in one day! I hope you enjoyed hiking Blanca Peak with my route guide.
No Blanca Peak Route Guide is complete without a topographical map. you can click the map below to view it larger, download it and print it, or save it on your phone. Always keep a paper copy of your map with you while hiking Blanca Peak in case something happens to your phone or GPS unit.
A Weather Forecast should be a part of any Blanca Peak Route Guide. Double check the weather conditions before you begin hiking Blanca Peak.
Hiking Blanca Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe. Good luck!
- 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.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
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 Blanca 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.
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.