The Spearhead via Glacier Gorge Trail

HARD 5 reviews
#125 of 188 trails in

The Spearhead via Glacier Gorge Trail is a 12.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Estes Park, Colorado that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, rock climbing, and backpacking and is best used from June until October.

12.5 miles
3,464 feet
Out & Back



rock climbing





wild flowers





no shade

no dogs

Once you are at Black Lake you will notice 300-ft walls of rock surround the lake. If you look sharp to the left (east) you can pick up the route as it hugs a minor wall of rock that enters the lake. There is a nice ledge here that will take you back to the trail. This trail ascends to the left about .03 miles and will deliver you up to the high basin above Black Lake. Once in the basin you are pretty much on your own. Not that many people go past Black Lake so there are only bits and pieces of trail to look for. From here, The Spearhead towers above you, as well as Pagoda & Chiefs Head and the Keyboard of the Winds. After arriving in “Spearhead Basin”, locate The Spearhead’s north ridge. This is the undefined ridge that separates the vast, unbroken northeast face from the more broken northwest face. Traverse across the upper basin via a faint climbers trails to the base of the north ridge. There is a boulder field that surrounds The Spearhead but it’s easy to manage. From the base of the north ridge hike southwest towards Frozen Lake. Do not go all the way to Frozen Lake; instead look sharp for a talus ramp that ascends up through the broken west face. This ramp is tough to miss, plus it has a trail that is easy to identify. Your next objective is to attain the low point or saddle between Chiefs Head and the Spearhead. The west face is mostly steep class 2 with some class 2+ on loose scree and talus. Once you attain the saddle the fun begins. At this point you are only a quarter mile traverse to the actual summit. Traverse north with little or no actual climbing, the traverse consists of easy class 3 climbing. For fun, hike up to the ridge crest and peer down at Green Lake some 900-ft below. When things get rough just drop down 10 or 20 feet and continue the traverse. Locating the summit is not difficult, it is the stack of boulders that sweeps up to the sky. Hike up easy class 3 boulders back up to the ridge crest. At this point, there is only one way to the summit block, class 4 moves. Locate the exposed catwalk and weigh your future. Attaining the summit block requires 10-feet of angled catwalk, approximately 2-ft wide with precipitous drop-offs on both sides and in front. Walk the catwalk to a small notch where two large, flat boulders come together to form the summit. Pull yourself onto either boulder and The Spearhead is yours.

4 months ago

9/18/18 fantastic hike that just keeps getting better as you go. Variety in the trail and hiking to the base of the Keyboard of the Winds and Longs worth it then throw in the magnificent Spearhead. Hard to beat, and Frozen Lake too! (Minus 1/10 star for wind).

6 months ago

What a thrill! If you're planning on attempting to summit, I would arrive at the trailhead no later than 5 or 5:30 AM, and then you have to be ready for 9-10 hours of pretty difficult work. The reward is well worth it! Take your time climbing the Spearhead, the trail is often obscured. I'll definitely be going back!

Monday, July 10, 2017

7.8.2017. We started running into snowbanks below Black Lake and up the wide chute that drains into Black Lake. Good to have microspikes. The snow was cold enough that we didn't posthole (luckily!).

It was a pretty long day, 10 hours on the trail, even though we didn't get to attempt The Spearhead itself due to rain, thunder, and lightning. Well worth the efforts, for those who make it that far into the backcountry.

1 month ago

Saturday, July 08, 2017