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With eight "fourteeners" (peaks exceeding 14,000 feet in elevation), Collegiate Peaks Wilderness probably possesses the highest average elevation of any Wilderness in the Lower 48. You can climb Mounts Yale, Oxford, Columbia, and Harvard (the state's third highest point), as well as Huron Peak, Missouri Mountain, Mount Belford, and La Plata Peak (the state's fifth highest point).Climbing these peaks is a very popular activity, making opportunities for solitude very elusive. Expect to be inundated by people and their dogs on any "fourteener" trail. As you travel through the area, you might notice unusual and deep indentations in the boundary line. These are a legacy of man's hunt for gold and other valuable metals that are still sought just outside. More than a dozen trailheads create a situation in which no one ever stands more than five miles from a road. About 40 miles of the serpentine Continental Divide snake across the area, and this expansive Wilderness lies in parts of three national forests. The beauty of this place and its ease of access ensure torrents of visitors, especially on weekends. Please help keep Wilderness wild by following Leave No Trace practices. In particular, please refrain from having camp fires near treeline. The dwarfed Krummholtz trees that grow there are taking a beating from insensitive campers.

amazing views and easy to get to. pretty difficult if you're not acclimated to the elevation, but worth it if you are or not.

Mt. Yale was my first 14'er. I am from the midwest, so not use to seeing or hiking this type of terrain (mainly the elevation). It is not for the faint of heart, that is for sure. But I was in OK shape from running and decided to give it a go.

The river is the first thing you notice at the start of the trailhead. It's refreshing to hear the water rushing down as part of the snow melt. The trail is wide and easy to follow for the first several miles. There was a little ice and snow to deal with below the treeline. I was able to move at 2-4 mph for the first several miles before I decided that I should slow down and conserve energy. Later on, I would realize that was a wise decision.

Getting above the treeline was exciting and you really begin to see the beauty of this trail and climb. The initial part above the treeline is steeper but it "flattens out" for a ways (meaning the elevation gain is not too difficult). The most difficult part that day above the treeline was trying to navigate the trail with large swaths of snow. I lost the trail a few times due to the snow (it wasn't deep and I was up early enough that it was still in the shade, so no post holing). Once you get to the last 1/2 mile or so going up, it moves into a switchback that I couldn't find due to the snow. So, I could see where the false summit was, so I just decided that I was going to start heading up vertical...I did that for ~900' of vertical gain! The most challenging part here was the loose terrain and the fear in the back of my head that I wouldn't make it home to my wife and 3 kids :-) However, I took it slow to make sure I stayed safe.

Once I got to the false summit, it was another 200' up (vertical) having to hop and jump around large boulders. It was also VERY windy. The wind made this part very challenging. But the view up at the summit, seeing so many snow capped peaks, was breath taking. I ate my lunch up there, took it in for about 30 mins, and then headed back down.

One thing I will say, you feel so small when you are on top of a mountain. Great perspective on life from up there. I feel so important most days, but it was a very different feeling up there. Humbling and good for the soul.

The trek down was most difficult for me...didn't realized how much that would pound on my thighs. I had hoped to run down, but decided against it to stay safe. My legs were spent by the time I got down. I took a 3 hour nap that felt like 5 mins!

I'd highly recommend this route...the beauty of the trail is worth all the effort. The view from the top is breath taking. Have a blast!

Did this on 10/14 after a big snow storm. Was a chilly and epic adventure. Post-holing up to the hips for the last mile. Good fun.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike. The hike is pretty steep from the very beginning and doesn't let up much. There is some snow from about 12,000 ft onward, but you can still find the trail as of this posting. The saddle between Belford and Oxford was crazy windy today! We spent a lot of energy leaning into in hopes of staying on the mountain (not that we really would have been blown off).

My first 14er. It felt pretty moderate to me, no section of the trail felt hard. Beautiful views from the summit and good colors on the aspens down low. 9-30-18

The views made it all worth it! A steady climb from the beginning to a rocky last 45 minutes of the hike.

A nice start in the woods. Trail was clearly marked. Beautiful vistas!

beautiful late Sept hike

We started after Noon and decided to hike only up to the bridge over a beautiful, chatty stream where we also sat on the moss in the sun and ate our lunch. I’m very curious about the rest of the hike up to Mount Hope and I’m sure that it is beautiful, but we found many gorgeous photo opportunities in the first 2 miles up.

1 month ago

This is a steep hike, but definitely worth it. Stunning at the top, but really gorgeous the entire way up to the top.

1 month ago

One of my favorites. The views are amazing. The aspens are beautiful. While the hike just goes up and up, there’s enough variety in the terrain that it doesn’t feel grueling.

Haley P nailed that synopsis below, incredible! Hiked under the full moon and started right outside of Winfield (the lower trailhead; Winfield is super cool, old little mining town you can explore) - tons of dispersed camping along the road to the upper trailhead. Great little dispersed spot right outside of Winfield as well. Definitely a great beginner 14'er! The trail is wonderfully defined the entire route and tough to get off track. #27 & definitely one of my favorites! Views at the summit were all-time. Enjoy!

Incredible! This was my first 14er and I’m hooked - a great first one to try if you haven’t hiked one yet. Some tips for folks to help you gauge time, distance, etc.

Everyone says to “start early” but that doesn’t really explain much. I found that you should be off the peak and below the tree line before noon on account of afternoon lightning storms. We started at 5:30 am (1.5 hours before sunrise) to give us ample time. The trail was super easy to follow, even in the dark. We made it almost half way up (to the plateau) in 1.5 hours. The last half took us another 1.5 hours, so 3 hours total to make it to the peak. We are regular hikers, but were not rushing it. We’re not a fan of blitzing a hike. We spent an hour at the top before descending in about 3 hours. Down by around 1 pm. Tons of people were ascending at that time - not sure if they planned to do the whole thing or not.

We drove in the Friday night before and car camped at the 4x4 trailhead. There were still plenty of places to park and camp, although we got there at 10 pm. You do need a 4x4 car or truck with at least 8-10 inches of clearance. A Toyota suv was hitting bottom in front of us on the way up.

Bring water, snacks, and layers! We saw some people hiking in a long-sleeved shirts and shorts and carrying one water bottle. I can’t advise against that enough. Maybe I’m just paranoid being a WFR, but honestly, I’m the one who will have to help when you get hurt, so please bring some supplies! Better to be prepared at 14,000 ft than to skimp on a little bit of extra weight.

Do it, you’ll love it!! 

hiking
1 month ago

I hit the summit of Columbia first thing this morning. Annihilated me, absolutely annihilated me. Be weary before stepping into this one as the Class II can be a tad misleading. No crazy bouldering but the sheer steepness of the slope after the treeline is insanely intense. There's a solid trail leading up the first saddle but slowly disappears, leaving one lost and bewildered, only option to continue straight up. Number 26 of 2018 and probably the most difficult. I'll take that 17 mile 6600 gain Blanca hike over this one any day. Schooled by Columbia.

I live in Hawaii. The way to the top was not easy for my little sea level legs and because I have no tolerance to the cold, I was a bit chilly. The view from the top was worth every step. Aspens were all yellow and I saw a happy little rat thing that was dope. He looked so happy.

We did this trail in early August with great weather. The trailhead is up the road about a half mile on the left and is easy to miss. There's a great variety of views a long the way, streams, valleys and a beautiful forest below the tree line. A lot of bouldering above the tree line, there's plenty of cairns but it's easy to lose the trail. Amazing but very difficult hike. It took us nearly as long to get down as it did to get up because of how steep it is. Poles highly recommended!

The incline to Harvard is relatively easy but long. Maybe two or three class 3 moves right at the summit. The traverse and incline are to Columbia are easy physically (obv if u aren’t fit u are going to be dying) the route is difficult to find. I used my gps on phone. The descent is very steep w scree but gets u back quickly. I recommend going up Harvard. It took me 9 hours but I’m on the faster side. Average will probably be 12/13 hours. Def make sure u have done longer hikes w a lot of elevation gain and be confident w route finding.

This is a grueling and rewarding hike/climb to Yale. It is mostly Class 1 and 2 but the lower-mid section of the ridge is Class 3 in parts with steep areas of scree/boulders. Took 3 hours to summit, 2 to descend. Amazing views of Sawatch and surrounding ranges

This was my third 14er and by far the best 360 degree views. You NEED a 4WD vehicle to get to the upper trailhead; if you have to park at the lower trailhead plan to add about 4 miles round trip to your hike.

I’m in good shape and it took me about 5 active hours round trip to complete.

Beautiful hike today! We parked at the lower trail head which made the hike about 11 miles round trip. The aspen trees are at peak right now, great views and not too crowded for a weekend!

09/14/2018 Winfield TH - Beautiful views! Trail follows a stream at the beginning. Caught the Aspens changing. My hiking partner and I both tracked 9 miles round trip (here and 14ers.com state 7 miles though).

Took a Crosstrek and parked near the last junction. Not worth driving up that last bit.

Lots of elevation gain / very steep in certain spots. Felt like we were going straight up right before the trail goes right about half way. Lots of scree in this spot so when we were coming down we couldn't help but slide on our butts.

There are 3-4 false summits (very deceiving!).

Near the top the trail is hard to follow - look out for cairns. Lots of boulder scrambling. Got off trail on our way back down and it was rough. I had my large black lab with me and he was struggling through the boulders.

We were the ONLY people on this trail that day. Saw maybe 6 people at the summit that had taken different routes.

Drank more water than usual (not sure why) but a good Samaritan left a gallon of water on the trail. Thank you!!!

This is a great combo to summit two 14ers in one day. It also makes a nice backpacking trip because there is camping about 3.5 miles in where the trail splits off to Mt. Colombia. If you hike in, camp, do the loop and then pick up your gear on the way out it makes for a nice overnight trip. There is water easily accessible as well.

The boulder field between Colombia and Harvard is a little challenging to navigate. There are not too many cairns and it's easy to get off track. Stay as high as you reasonably can as you go through it and you'll be OK. It is a little slow going through there, so just give yourself some extra time.

hiking
2 months ago

This is a great combo of two 14ers to hit. You can make it a really nice overnight trip by hiking in to one of the campsite areas just before the split off. The second of the two is nicest and is located right next to a stream for easy access to water.

The leg to get from the summit of Belford to Oxford takes 45-60 minutes each way.

This was my first 14er. It took me 5.5 hours of active time, not including the half hour I spent at the top. The peak had a nice little pile of rocks that creates some coverage from the wind. AMAZING 360 degree views. Every angle was breathtaking. Would definitely do again. And the cute little pikas everywhere were probably my favorite. I have no idea how but I saw some insane person mountain biking too.

When reading 14er reviews, I always find it helpful to know a persons skill level. That being said, I’m a regular hiker and this was my second 14er. I can easily say this was the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. Don’t let the “lower” summit height fool you. This thing is steep! You climb roughly 1000 ft per mile for the full 3.5 mile ascend. Once you’re past the tree line (and the wonderful, but short, flat reprieve), this is where the true challenge begins. But what a view! I can see why a lot of the reviews say this is the most beautiful 14er. It was stunning!

Great paved open trail head. Beautiful hike in woods. 3 miles to Yale trail. Next 2.5 miles on ridge line to summit is class 2 plus, class 3 at times. No defined routes on ridge climb, carins small and few. Beware of false summits, they are soul crushers. Summit offers amazing view.

Not hard but pretty steep! Parking lot at the top (that requires 4wd) fills up quick. There were 6 or 8 cars parked there Friday night for the next morning.

Important: the trailhead is up the road a short distance, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 mi on the LEFT next to the green gate (right past it). There are small cairns but easy to miss- look for a sign that says “Attention...” This hike seemed much longer than 8-9 mi, I was with a group of 3 and we all had ~13 mi on our devices. There’s a large boulder field and good deal of scree, which makes the last 2-3 mi pretty grueling. There are also a couple of false summits, so watch for the trail continuing on. I’ve done Huron, Belford, Oxford, and Missouri and this one was the hardest for me. I call this one the beast- such a beautiful beast, though!

One of the best 14ers and trails that I’ve done. Beautiful start through the aspens - the leaves are just starting to change color. There’s a lot of hiking above tree line but you’re on the proper side of the ridge to avoid a lot of the wind until near the summit. A couple of false summits may trick you but the second is almost level with the final summit. A tiny bit of scrambling may be required but the views are well worth it.

3:30AM start on Saturday. Chilly with some frozen precipitation. Summit at 7:20. Warmed up a bit on the way down. No flashlight needed above treeline with a 2/3 moon overhead.

Did this hike a few weeks ago. The road leading up to this trailhead is about 6 miles of 4x4 road. We had a 4x4 vehicle but eventually had to park it about a mile from the trailhead because it got way too rough for us as we were in a rental. But can I just say how absolutely incredible it is to get out there. I adored every minute of it. We didn’t see many people after passing the campgrounds, or on the trail. I enjoyed adding an additional mile to my hike as we passed this awesome 120yr old cabin, and got great views of the basin. The trail itself is easy but I’ve been hiking in high elevations for quite some time now. I would write more details but I don’t want to ruin anything. Let’s just say, you get more views and features out of this hike than just these alpine lakes. Totally worth the slightly rough road out there! And ALWAYS be watchful of weather my friends. ✌

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