Broken Hand Peak Route Guide | A Fine Class 3 Thirteener

If you climb Crestone Peak or Needle, you first must climb over Broken Hand Pass, a fun Class 3 scramble that takes you out of the Southern Colony Lakes basin into the western Sangres. From here, you have easier access to a number of peaks, including its namesake Broken Hand Peak. As you climb you’ll get amazing views of the Needle and Peak to the south. The route is Class 3, but is simpler than the taller Crestones nearby. Plan your trip with this Broken Hand Peak Route Guide.

New to 13ers? Check Out my Beginners Guide Here to Get Started!

Broken Hand Peak Route Guide Fast Facts

Broken Hand Peak Route Guide - West Slopes

My Broken Hand Peak Route Guide starts with getting to the trailhead. If you have a 2 WD vehicle, your trip begins down on the valley, adding 5.4 miles for a 20 mile trip. I highly recommend using a 4WD vehicle with good clearance to make it to the upper trailhead. Take your time driving this road, especially when passing over a deeply eroded culvert.

At the upper traihead, head across a well constructed bridge and continue up the old road up to southern colony lakes. About 2.5 miles in you’ll come to a junction with information kiosks – take a left. 

Cross the river over a log bridge and continue along the road until you reach a gate this used to be the upper trailhead until it was closed. Continue 3/4 mile until you hike through the trees again and take a left to follow a stream up to the southern Colony Lake area. This is an ideal place to camp for the night (I highly recommend doing this as an overnight climb).

From the lake, follow the trail up to the left, follow cairns that mark the trial. You’ll need to cross several gullies as you work your way up towards Broken Hand Pass.

As you reach the pass you’ll enter rugged terrain and find a few Class 3 options just below the top of the pass. There may be snow until mid-summer, in which case crampons and an ice axe is recommended.

From the pass, take the trail down towards Cottonwood Pass, descend about 200 feet, looking for a break in rock slabs to your left towards Broken Hand Peak. Use this to access the West slopes and start to climb east. 

Work your way around rock outcroppings continuing up and towards the summit. It is easy to add a Class 3 alternative by heading up and over the rocks instead. Head towards a point that appears to be the summit but is actually just below it. Scramble below the point following cairns, or hike up to a grass ledge just below the point that angles right. Once past the point continue a short way to the true summit.

On the top, enjoy your accomplishment! Be sure you head down with plenty of time to make it back over the Pass and to the lake below treeline before afternoon. I hope you enjoyed my Broken Hand Peak Route Guide.

Broken Hand Peak Route Guide

My Broken Hand Peak route guide includes this topographical map of the area. I recommend downloading it on your phone and bringing a printed paper copy as a backup in case something goes wrong.

Broken Hand Peak Route Guide

Besides reviewing my Broken Hand Peak route guide, you should check the weather forecast before going on your climb. Here are several sources to use:

NOAA Weather Forecast Broken Hand Peak

Mountain Forecast Broken Hand Peak

Hiking & climbing 13ers or 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.


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 Broken Hand 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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