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July 09, 2018 Slideshows » Culture

Hiking Little Bear Peak 

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Located south of the Sand Dunes in the Sangre de Cristos, Little Bear Peak rises next to three other 14ers; Blanca, Ellingwood Point and Mount Lindsey. The group sits northeast of Alamosa and all but Lindsey are accessed by the Lake Como Road. Little Bear is widely regarded as one of the more difficult Colorado 14ers, considered a class 4 hike with loose rock, steep aspects and difficult route finding.

Lake Como Road becomes bumpy and rocky 1.5 miles after turning off of Highway 150 and becomes impassable to vehicles without four-wheel drive and high ground clearance. From there, the hike is 14 miles roundtrip to the summit of Little Bear, a total of about 6,037 feet elevation gain, or 11 miles roundtrip to Lake Como. Most 4x4 vehicles can make it another 3-3.5 miles before the road becomes impassable to anything but an ATV or off-road vehicle. Whether by foot or vehicle, the Lake Como Road is slow and extremely rocky.

The road ends shortly before Lake Como, at 11,750 feet, where there are a number of primitive campsites. From there, an easily found trailhead leads north of the lake and past tree line. The routes to Ellingwood Point and Blanca continue east on the trail to the Blue Lakes.

At around 12,000 feet, after exiting the woods, the route to Little Bear leaves the trail and climbs a scree field to a gully up the mountain's west ridge. The route is loose and sandy and the way is visible only by spotting cairns. The top of the gully ends at a notch on the ridge at 12,600 feet. From there, the route traverses the backside of the ridge via talus slope to the bottom of the southwest face.

The most difficult part of the climb begins at 13,300 feet, at an area called "the Hourglass," named for a narrow, wet granite section above and below fields of loose rock. Route finding here is made easy by fixed ropes, but do not place too much trust in the ropes without inspecting their condition or the anchor, and proceed with caution. After the Hourglass, the climb is steep, with loose rock and without much of a route to follow to the summit.

Check out for trip reports and more information on the trail before you go.

To get there: From Colorado Springs, go south on I-25 to Walsenburg, head west on Hwy 160, shortly after the town of Blanca turn right and go north on Hwy 150 toward the Sand Dunes. Go three miles and then find Lake Como Road on the right. 
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Tyler Grimes
Little Bear Peak from Hwy 160.
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The Sangre de Cristos from Hwy 150.
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An RV parked by Lake Como Road.
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Lake Como/ Blanca Peak Road leading to Lake Como, Blanca Peak, Ellingwood Point and Little Bear Peak.
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The San Luis Valley.
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Little Bear and the gully before sunrise.
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An alternate route up the West Ridge.
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The Lower Blue Lake in the basin below.
Tyler Grimes
The West Ridge (right) as the sunrise casts Little Bear's shadow.
Tyler Grimes
Blanca Peak (right) and Ellingwood Point.
Tyler Grimes
Lake Como.
Tyler Grimes
A plume of smoke from the Spring Creek Fire.
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Smoke from the Spring Creek Fire.
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Great Sand Dunes National Park, the Sangre de Cristos, Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle over Ellingwood's shoulder.
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Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR)66 images
Tyler Grimes
Little Bear Peak from Hwy 160.

Tags: hiking, outdoors


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