Hiking Handies Peak | An Easy Class 1 Hike

Of all the Colorado 14ers, hiking Handies Peak is the easiest adventure of them all. However, this 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.


Hiking Handies Peak: Fast Facts

Hiking Handies Peak - Southwest Slopes Route

If you don’t have a 4WD car, or don’t feel comfortable driving through the creek crossing 1 mile from the trailhead,, park in one of the nearby areas. You can start hiking Handies Peak here up the 1 mile road to the trailhead. Take the well-maintained trail 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.

I hope you enjoyed my Handies Peak Route Guide. You can find additional 14er route guides here, and 13er route guides here. Safe travels on the trail, and good luck hiking Handies Peak!

Handies Peak Standard Route Guide

It’s important to bring a good topographical map and compass with you while hiking Handies Peak. I recommend downloading this map on your phone or other electronic device, and also printing out a copy to bring with you as a backup in case anything happens to your phone along the hike.

Take the time to research weather conditions before you attempt hiking Haandies Peak. Below is a good source to get weather information for Handies Peak and other fourteeners.

Handies Peak Route Guide NOAA Weather Forecast – Click Here

​Hiking Handies Peak 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.


Hiking Handies Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. 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.

Alex Derr

Alex is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others explore the mountains, stay safe, and preserve the peaks for the future. Subscribe to the Next Summit Newsletter here.

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