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!

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE TO CLIMBING 14ERS HERE.

Hiking Blanca Peak | Fast Facts

Hiking Blanca Peak - Northwest Ridge Route

You can start hiking Blanca Peak 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 overnight. Skirt around the left of the lake and pick up 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 switch back 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 the treeline before afternoon thunderstorms. If you have extra time, consider traversing 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.

Blanca Peak Route Guide

A Weather Forecast should be a part of any Blanca Peak Route Guide. Double-check the weather conditions before you begin hiking Blanca Peak, and consider delaying if high winds or stormy weather is expected.

Mountain Forecast Blanca Peak

NOAA Weather Forecast Blanca Peak

The right gear makes hiking Blanca Peak much easier, and will also help you stay safe. Here’s a rundown on what you should bring with you for this route.

Start with a good pair of hiking boots (I recommend them over shoes due to their ankle support). Here are six of my favorite hiking boots for 14ers.

You should also have the ten essentials with you during your hike. These are the key pieces of gear needed to stay safe and respond to emergencies in the mountains. Here is a refresher on the topic.

A backpack will help you store your ten essentials as you go on your hike. For day trips, aim for a bag between 15 and 30 liters in capacity. If you’re hiking Blanca Peak over several days, you will want a bag with 45-65 liters. Here are some of my favorite options.

Learn more about packing for a 14er here.

Camping near Blanca Peak:

There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along the Lake Como road near the trailhead ideal for those hiking Blanca Peak. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Blanca Peak:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Alamosa, perfect for those hiking Blanca Peak.

The area around Blanca Peak is still largely pristine, but more and more people are visiting it every year. Help us preserve this spectacular ecosystem by following these important Leave No Trace practices while hiking Blanca Peak.

  • Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
  • Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
  • Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
  • Urinate off trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
  • Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
  • Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.

Safe travels, and good luck hiking Blanca Peak!

Blanca Peak is considered one of the four sacred peaks of the Navajo Tribe. Please be mindful of this while hiking Blanca Peak by respecting the land and practicing Leave No Trace outdoor ethics at all times.

Blanca Peak was home to one of the last remaining glaciers in the southern Colorado Rocky Mountains. However, it finally melted away sometime during the past 80 years after its original discovery back in the 19th century.

The road up to Lake Como is notorious among fourteeners, and is considered the most difficult approach road to drive from bottom to top in the state – it requires a 4WD vehicle with extensive modification and an experienced driver at the wheel. Most people hiking Blanca Peak will need to park along the way and hike most of the way to the lake.

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.

  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!

Hiking Blanca 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 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, Creator of The Next Summit

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

Enjoy This Post? Join The Next Summit Newsletter to get advice, news & stories!