hiking Blanca Peak

Hiking Blanca Peak | 14er Route Description, Map & Advice

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 14er beginner’s guide to get started

Hiking Blanca Peak | Fast Facts

CAUTION: This Route is Hazardous!

You are responsible for your personal safety in the backcountry.

These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear.

Hiking Blanca Peak - Northwest Ridge Route

First time planning a 14er hike or climb? Start by reading the route description and reviewing the route map. You should use the weather forecasts to plan, along with my gear recommendations. Check the Trailhead info to ensure you know how to get there and have an appropriate vehicle. Stay nearby at one of the camping or lodging options below to acclimatize before your climb and reduce your risk of altitude sickness. Lastly, refresh your Leave No Trace and mountain safety knowledge to protect the peaks and yourself.

There is additional information about the peak, local regulations, plus additional resources and a frequently asked question section. Have a question? Leave a comment at the bottom of the route guide and we’ll reply ASAP with an answer. Cheers!

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.

Lake Como near 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

Always check the weather forecast several days in advance of your climb. The predictions can change dramatically due to variable mountain conditions. If things take a turn, consider postponing and returning to Blanca Peak in the future when conditions improve. Below is a link to the Mountain Forecast page for Blanca and the full forecast from the National Weather Service. I recommend checking out both of them.

Mountain Forecast for Blanca Peak

NOAA Weather Forecast for 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!

Setting out on a hike up Blanca Peak is an exhilarating experience, but prioritizing safety during your adventure is crucial. Following mountain safety guidelines will result in a more enjoyable and secure journey for hikers of all skill levels.

  1. Prepare and Plan
    Conduct thorough research on trail conditions, weather forecasts, and any specific hazards or challenges related to Blanca Peak. Make sure you have suitable gear, clothing, and adequate food and water for the entire hike. Inform someone about your intended route and expected return time.

  2. Begin Early
    Start your hike in the early morning to avoid common afternoon thunderstorms in the Colorado mountains. Aim to descend from the summit and be below the tree line before noon to reduce the risk of lightning strikes.

  3. Recognize Altitude Sickness
    Understand the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). If anyone in your group experiences symptoms (such as coughing, shortness of breath, severe headache, or confusion), descend to a lower elevation immediately.

  4. Follow Established Trails
    Protect the environment and reduce your impact by sticking to marked trails. This not only safeguards delicate vegetation but also lowers the risk of getting lost or encountering unforeseen hazards.

  5. Hike with a Companion
    Hiking with a partner or group offers extra safety and support. In the event of an injury or emergency, having someone with you can significantly improve the situation.

  6. Keep an Eye on the Weather
    Mountain weather can change quickly, so stay vigilant and be ready to modify your plans if needed. If thunderstorms or other hazardous weather conditions arise, prioritize safety and consider turning back.

  7. Acknowledge Your Limits
    Be truthful about your physical fitness, experience, and abilities. If you’re uncertain about your capacity to complete the hike or reach the summit, it’s best to turn back and attempt it another day.

  8. Prepare for Emergencies
    Carry a fully charged cell phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB) in case of emergencies. Familiarize yourself with basic first aid and wilderness survival techniques, and know the emergency contact numbers for the area.

Adhering to these mountain safety guidelines and recommendations will contribute to a successful and enjoyable hike up Blanca Peak while encouraging responsible care of our cherished natural landscapes.

There are no fees or permits required to climb Blanca Peak at this time.

The route and trail pass over land owned by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and private landowners. Please follow Leave No Trace practices and respect the land to help protect public access.

Blanca Peak is a prominent mountain located in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. With an elevation of 14,345 feet (4,372 meters), it is the fourth highest peak in the state and one of the 58 fourteeners (peaks with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet) in Colorado. Blanca Peak is situated in the southern part of the state, approximately 20 miles east-northeast of the city of Alamosa.

Blanca Peak is a visually striking mountain, known for its rugged terrain and dramatic cliffs. The mountain is composed primarily of granite and metamorphic rock, which gives it a distinct appearance. The area surrounding Blanca Peak features beautiful alpine landscapes, glacial lakes, and an abundance of wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears.

In Navajo (Diné) tradition, Blanca Peak is considered one of the four sacred mountains that mark the boundaries of their ancestral homeland. Known as Sisnaajiní, it represents the eastern direction and is associated with the color white.

Climbing Blanca Peak is a challenging endeavor, typically taking one to two days to complete. The most common approach is via Lake Como Road and the Northwest Ridge route. The hike involves a significant elevation gain and requires proper preparation, experience, and physical fitness. Due to the challenging nature of the hike and potential hazards such as rockfall and afternoon thunderstorms, safety should always be the top priority when attempting to summit Blanca Peak.

Q: Where are the four sacred mountains located?

A: The four sacred mountains of the Navajo, also known as the Dine, are located in the southwestern United States. These mountains represent the four cardinal directions and play a significant role in Navajo spirituality, tradition, and mythology. The sacred mountains are:

East – Blanca Peak (Sisnaajiní): Located in the Sangre de Cristo Range in Colorado, Blanca Peak represents the eastern boundary of the Navajo Nation and is associated with the color white.

South – Mount Taylor (Tsoodził): Found in the San Mateo Mountains in New Mexico, Mount Taylor represents the southern boundary and is associated with the color blue.

West – San Francisco Peaks (Dook’o’oosłííd): Located in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks represent the western boundary of the Navajo Nation and are associated with the color yellow.

North – Hesperus Mountain (Dibé Nitsaa): Situated in the La Plata Mountains in Colorado, Hesperus Mountain marks the northern boundary of the Navajo territory and is associated with the color black.

Q: How high is Blanca Peak?

A: Blanca Peak, located in the Sangre de Cristo Range in Colorado, has an elevation of approximately 14,351 feet (4,374 meters). It is one of Colorado’s 14ers and ranks as the fourth-highest peak in the state.

Q: Can you drive up Blanca Peak?

A: No, you cannot drive up Blanca Peak. The mountain does not have a road that leads to the summit. To reach the peak, you must hike or climb one of the various routes available. The most common approach is via the Lake Como Road, which is a rough and challenging 4×4 road that starts at the base of the mountain. Most hikers and climbers park their vehicles at a suitable location along Lake Como Road and then hike or backpack up to Lake Como, where they set up camp before attempting the summit. Keep in mind that Blanca Peak is a challenging hike and requires proper preparation, experience, and physical fitness.

Q: How long does it take to climb Blanca Peak?

A: Climbing Blanca Peak in a single continuous hike is quite challenging due to the length, elevation gain, and difficult terrain. Most hikers hike to Lake Como where they camp for the night and climb to the summit the next day. However, for highly experienced and physically fit hikers, it is possible to complete the hike in one day.

A rough estimate for a one-day, continuous hike would be approximately 12 to 16 hours, depending on their level of fitness, weather conditions, acclimation, and other factors. Most hikers would need 16-20 hours and should consider doing it in two days.

Disclaimer: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.

The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.

By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses. 

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Notice: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.

The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.

By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses. 

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Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located 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. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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