Clark Peak Summit Trail is a 9.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Walden, CO that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible from March until September.
We parked at the second lot at Clark Peak Yurt. Seriously would need a high clearance vehicle to make it to the 3 rd (4x4) lot. We hiked this as an out and back trail and did not go to the Unnamed Peaks via the loop described in many books.
The Jewel Lake Trail is fairly easy with a steady climb most of the way. It is much more gradual as you near the Lake.
The scramble to the saddle and then to the Peak was difficult in places. There are sections of loose rocks alternating with steep grassy areas. It took over 2 hours to summit from the Lake. Because there is no trail, perhaps we didn't chose the right way.
The views from the top are stunning but be aware of the scenery along the way, as it is also very beautiful.
Although another mile in distance, if I did this peak again, I would complete the loop. I suspect the decent is easier that way.
I uploaded the photo of my route. I am posting this review as I think there is a lot of bad or incomplete information out there about this summit. For instance, there is no trail that I could find called the Clark Peak Summit trail. From the peak I could see no trails.
I hiked this on 7/29/2016 from the Blue Lake Trail head. I decided to do it as a day hike (not recommended) leaving Fort Collins at 6 a.m. arriving at the parking lot around 7:30 and starting the hike soon after. I was hiking with my dog, Rocky, a 55 lb rescue of unknown breed. I was carrying a gallon of water for both of us plus rain gear, cold weather gear, trekking poles, first aid gear, and food for Rocky and I. Probably a 20 lb pack.
The trail from the trail head to blue lake is 5 miles (not the 4 miles reported on other sites). It follows a gentle up hill gaining approx 1300 feet of elevation with some ups and downs. The trail is well marked and well traveled. This was the only part of the hike were I saw people, no one else was summiting. From the lake hike up another 3/4 mile to Blue Lake Pass on a steep switchback trail. At the pass you are at about 10,500 feet and on your left you can see Clark Peak, on your right Cameron peak. I arrived at the pass 2 hours after starting the hike just before 10 a.m.
After getting fed and watered we started up the slope on our left to gain the northeast ridge line of Clark Peak. The ridge line is clearly visible, its just a matter of picking your line to get to the slope. There is no reason to go past the cairn marking the top of the pass before scrambling up to the northeast ridge line. This is a 3+ exposed ridge line across multiple boulder and scree fields with exposure on both sides. There are also multiple snow fields which are easily skirted on this approach. The hike up the ridge line has about 4 false peaks hiding the next higher peak. The wind was blowing 5-10 making the exposure feel more dangerous than it was. After the 3rd false peak you will see the last two ascents, a false peak and then the true peak. We dropped our gear at the base of the final climb, 500 ish vertical up a quarter of a mile steep slope. Large wind protection plus amazing views from the top. Took my 2.5 hours from top of the pass to summit. I was on the summit at 1:15 pm.
Instead of back tracking, I decided to descend the south face (not recommended). From the peak the south face looks like a gentle rolling slope down the mountain. Weather and wind were picking up so I decided against the ridge line return. This was a mistake. Just out of view from the peak the south face gets incredibly steep and turns into talus and scree with boulders throughout. It was a very tricky descent and instead of saving me time, actually made my descent take longer than my ascent. After that you have boulder fields and snow fields. I had to cross and back track looking for a good line. Finally, I had to slide across a snow field on my butt to make my way down. My recommendation would be to back track the northeast ridge or descend to Jewel Lake, avoid the south face unless you have mountaineering equipment and experience. Trekking poles came in very handy up to the peak and on the descent. Also, having a gps watch that tracked my ascent helped my find my way back down where there was no trail. Made it down back to blue lake trail and out to the trail head. Got to my car at 7:15 pm. All water and half of the food were gone. Wear sunscreen as the ascent to the summit is well above treeline and the sun will bake you.
Stats are in the photo. In hindsight, I should have camped at Blue Lake and attempted the ascent the next day.