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Rocky Mountain High: Climbing Humboldt Peak, A Colorado 14,000-Footer

Jun 28, 2021 11:37AM ● By Story and photos by Lisa Ballard
I grew up with John Denver’s hit song “Rocky Mountain High” echoing in my head whenever I stood atop a mountain, and I’ve stood atop a lot of mountains all over Vermont and New Hampshire. Getting high on mountains is a double entendre that any hiker understands. You are physically higher than your surroundings, and you are emotionally higher than at the trailhead. Much higher. You feel on top of the world, or at least the piece of it surrounding you at that moment. The panorama is the sweet reward for the physical effort—suffering sometimes—to get there. However, summiting Mount Mansfield or Mount Washington is not exactly like a tall peak in the Rocky Mountains. It took me 59 years to finally stand atop one of Colorado’s giants and experience a real Rocky Mountain high.

While the Northeast has its lofty 4,000-footers, with 10 peaks over 5,000 feet, Colorado’s biggest mountains are over 14,000 feet! Last summer I had the chance to climb one of them, Humboldt Peak (14,064 feet) in the Sangre de Cristo range.



Plan your trip with the following travel and lodging information.

Map: Trails Illustrated Topographic Map Guide - Colorado 14ers South (National Geographic)

Guidebook: The Colorado 14ers, The Best Routes (Colorado Mountain Club)

Lodging: Westcliffe (population 620), is the closest town but has only a couple of small inns and limited services. Some hikers camp near the South Colony Lakes, which also cuts down the summit day by about 5 miles. Pueblo, 55 miles away from Westcliffe, has more hotel options, restaurants, and other amenities for travelers.

Closest airport: Pueblo, Colorado. (Closest large airport: Colorado Springs)

Directions to Trailhead: From Pueblo, take CO 96 west to Westcliffe. From Westcliffe, Colorado, take CO 69 southeast 4.5 miles toward Walsenburg. Turn right (south) on Colfax Lane/CR 119. Go 5.5 miles to its end, then turn right onto the South Colony Lakes Road/USFS Rd 120. Continue 4 miles to the trailhead parking lot. Note: A clearance, 4WD vehicle is a must for going up the South Colony Lakes Road!

To continue reading this story, please see page 64 in the Image Magazine Summer 2021 digital edition.

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