Hiking Humboldt Peak isn’t a particularly exciting climb, but it boasts some of the best views in the entire southern Rockies. From the peak you can enjoy stunning views of the Crestones to the east, the Blanca group to the South, the Sawatch Range to the North, and the plains below. The trip is much further if you need to park in the 2WD trailhead – take your time on the 4WD as it is extremely rough. I recommend making it a two day trip with an overnight at South Colony Lakes. Here’s a great place to get started researching for your adventure hiking Humboldt Peak in Colorado.
Hiking Humboldt 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 Humboldt Peak - West Ridge Route
From the trailhead, start hiking Humboldt Peak along the well-built trail to the west. There’s a trail log you can sign with your name and destination to help leave your mark in an eco-friendly way! Then continue over a well-built cedar bridge and on to what was the old road to the former upper trailhead.
Follow the road for about 2.5 miles as it winds through the forest. Eventually, Broken Hand Pass will come into view ahead of you, and you’ll get glimpses of Humboldt Peak rising above to your right through the woods. When you come to a trail junction 2.5 miles in, take a right.
Hike up this well-maintained and constructed trail as you head towards South Colony Lakes. There are several creek crossings, and there may be snowfields during spring and early summer. You’ll pass through several rocky talus fields – follow the cairns for the easiest route through. Enjoy the view of the Crestone Needle above!
You’ll next come to South Colony Lake, a great place to spend the night if you’re doing Humboldt as an overnight trip. If not, continue on the trail, or take a short diversion to refill water and enjoy the view. Pass Upper South Colony Lake next, and then take a hard right.
The next section is definitely one of the toughest you’ll come across while hiking Humboldt Peak. It’s a series of switchbacks of a section of gentle slope on Humboldt’s south side. Take your time going up and take breaks to enjoy the views behind you of Broken Hand Pass.
Once upon the saddle, turn right and head up the West Ridge. The trail gets much rockier here. However, it continues for the majority of the ridge until you reach close to the top.
Once you reach the final section, navigate to the right of the cliffs on Humboldt’s north side, aiming for the summit hump several hundred feet ahead of you.
The final crux of the climb is a 60-foot outcropping on which the summit lies. To avoid difficult climbing, aim right and gain the outcropping on ledges before climbing back up left to reach the summit.
Once you’ve made it, enjoy it! Humboldt Peak is no easy 14er. You should be proud. I hope you enjoyed my Humboldt Peak Route Guide. Enjoy the views and be sure you make it back to the tree line before afternoon thunderstorm risk increases. I wish you luck hiking Humboldt Peak. Safe travels on the trail!
Before hiking Humboldt Peak, it is important to get a high-quality map for navigating along the route. I recommend downloading this to your phone and also printing a backup paper copy in case anything happens to your electronics. Best to be prepared!
Below are several links to weather forecasts to check before hiking Humboldt Peak. It’s a good idea to check several different sources when checking the weather. Be wary of high winds, storm systems, snow, or ice forecast during or directly after your trip. Adjust your packing list and itinerary accordingly to limit your risk.
The lower trailhead can be reached by any 2WD vehicle. The upper trailhead requires 4WD and high clearance to reach it successfully.
DIRECTIONS TO THE SOUTH COLONY LAKES TRAILHEAD:
Hiking Humboldt Peak will take you a good deal of time. There are many miles of hiking and a significant amount of scrambling at high altitudes. A good pair of hiking boots are ideal for this kind of adventure. Here are my top hiking boot recommendations.
You should always bring the ten essentials with you on your trip (see the infographic below). To carry them all, bring a backpack with 20-30 liters capacity. These are several good backpack options that won’t break the bank.
While trekking poles are not a necessity on this mountain, I use them myself as they offer many benefits and make hiking easier. If you want a pair, I share my personal favorites here.
Don’t forget to bring 2 liters of water, and a good bit of snacks and food for the trip. Learn more about packing for a 14er here.
Camping near Humboldt Peak:
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those hiking Humboldt Peak. Note that camping is not allowed at the trailhead. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Humboldt Peak:
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Westcliffe and the surrounding area, ideal for those hiking Humboldt Peak.
Humboldt Peak gets a lot of traffic due to the high altitude 4WD road along its slopes. This increases the impact on the alpine tundra on this peak. Help preserve this mountain and area while hiking Humboldt Peak by following these Leave No Trace practices:
- 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 Humboldt Peak! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.
Humboldt Peak is named after Alexander Humboldt, an early geographer, scientist, and mountaineer who traveled the world and accomplished many first summits of volcanoes and peaks in South America and the Andes.
Originally, the Southern Colony Lakes trailhead was located high in the basin, allowing for relatively short day ascents up the Humboldt Peak route. However, in the early 2000s the upper trailhead was closed to reduce damage to the fragile alpine ecosystem. Today, most people take two days to climb Humboldt Peak, with a base camp near south colony lakes. The effort is worth the view of the Crestones from the summit.
I am working on adding historical information to my Humboldt Peak Route Guide. Check back for more information about this famous peak to learn about its geology, history, and the Humboldt Peak route in general.
Additional Resources for Hiking Humboldt Peak:
Hiking Humboldt Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- 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.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Humboldt 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.