The majestic Mount Huron stands proud and tall. It’s just tall enough to qualify as one of Colorado’s magnificent 14ers but it was definitely tall enough to kick my ass many times over. It barely scrapes past the 14,000 foot mark, ranking as the 2nd shortest of those 53 mountains. It peaks at just 14,006 feet above sea level but don’t be fooled. That definitely doesn’t make it easy.
The 11-mile roundtrip hike is pretty much a full-day affair. Get an early start, summit before noon and then drag your exhausted legs back down the mountain. It sounds pretty straightforward. Most hikes do. Go up then go back down right? 11 miles of trekking through rocky terrain is a task in itself, yet the elevation increase of 3,800 feet is what makes summiting Huron one of the toughest day hikes you’ll ever do.
In fact, it should hardly be considered a day hike if you take into account all of the preparation and acclimatization that you will need to do. For non-Coloradoans like myself, the altitude can be a killer. I barely had two days to adjust to the altitude. My failure to acclimatize was evident with how out of breath I constantly was. I could hardly talk and walk at the same time.
Despite the struggles, Mount Huron was one of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes I have ever done. Read on if you’re ready for an adventure.
How To Get To Mount Huron
Depending on where you’re coming from, getting to Mount Huron’s trailhead could be an adventure in itself. We drove from Denver and it took nearly three hours of driving. For the last hour, we hardly had any signal so make sure you know the directions ahead of time.
I half expected there to be a legitimate town or some sort of visitor center somewhere near the entrance or trailhead, but alas, there was not. It’s actually kind of relieving to see that there are still some incredible hikes that haven’t been overly commercialized.
Make sure you have everything you need before you turn onto the bumpy dirt road. It’s a twenty-mile stretch but could take close to an hour before you actually reach the trailhead. Most cars should park at the parking lot shortly after the Winfield ghost town. If you are brave and think your car is capable, then you might be able to push through the rough terrain and park closer to the trailhead. It could make a 4-mile roundtrip difference for the hike.
What Time Of Day To Do The Hike
Early morning is your best bet if you want to ensure that you have time to summit Huron. For safety reasons, it is highly recommended that you be off the summit by noon. Thunderstorms and wild afternoon weather is very common in the Rockies. You don’t want to be anywhere near the peak if Mother Nature decides to impose her power.
I personally recommend starting the hike 9 AM at the latest. We started an hour before noon and definitely cut it close time-wise. The entire time, I suffered a bit of anxiety because I wanted to make sure we got off the mountain before too late. Compounded with a rough time adjusting to the altitude, it was a rough hike. We finished up around 5:30 PM, so the entire hike should take about 6-7 hours. Get an early start, for sure. That leaves you the entire rest of the day to rest on your laurels and relax a bit. The entire region is stunning and I can’t think of a better way to relax than just sitting by the river near the trailhead.
What You Need To Bring
Mount Huron is meant to be done in a day so you won’t need to bring anything for an overnight trek. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can pack light. Water is definitely essential and I would recommend at least 2 liters minimum. Bring snacks, too. I brought some Clif bars but scarfed them down before I even got to the halfway point of the uphill portion of the hike. My much more in-shape friend left me a Red Bull and a bag of trail mix as a little care package next to a rock on the way up.
Aside from food and drinks, you’ll need to pack for some wild weather. It gets cold up there and it is unbelievably windy. You might be sweating on the way up but you will not be hot. Bring a jacket, just in case. You might end up stripping down or piling on layers along the way so it’s good to have some versatility. A raincoat and some waterproof covers for your bag should definitely make their way into your pack, as well.
What The Hike is Like
Depending on where you start, the hike can either be 7 miles or 11 miles roundtrip. The main parking lot is about 2 miles before the actual trailhead. If your car’s got 4 wheel drive and you are comfortable with offroading a bit, you can park up closer to the trailhead and cut some time and effort from your trek.
The two miles from the parking lot to the trailhead will be the easiest part of the entire hike. You’ll only have about 300 feet of elevation and the altitude won’t be much of a killer yet. You’ll be starting at around 10,200 feet above sea level from the parking lot. The trailhead is at about 10,500 feet above sea level. It’s a pretty steady start but unfortunately, you’ve got a ways to go before you can say you’ve summited this 14’er. 3,500 feet of elevation gain, to be exact.
The first part of the hike is a bunch of switchbacks through the pine forests. You’ll be protected from the elements for the most part. That’s probably the only good thing about this stretch. It is uphill and seemingly endless. You won’t get too many views that aren’t completely obstructed by the dense forest. It should take about two hours to finish this section and get to the basin of the mountain. Trudge through and you will be rewarded.
Once you get to the basin, you will be much more exposed to the elements. You’ll be at about 12,000-12,500 feet when you get to the basin. You’re about halfway there but the climb gets significantly steeper from here. If you’re one to be affected by altitude, this is definitely a place that you’d want to take it slow. You can follow the trail which is pretty straightforward or you can take a shortcut by doing a little rock climbing up towards the top.
The views here are absolutely stunning. You get a panoramic view of the seemingly endless Rocky Mountain range. Snow-capped peaks, dense forests, lush valleys are just some of what you can expect to see along the way.
Summiting The Beast
Are you ready for it? Crossing off a 14’er is a massive accomplishment. Huron is no easy feat. Depending on what time of year you go, snow and ice might still be an issue. We went on the hike the first week of June and had no problems weather-wise. It was dry, which is one of the most important factors to consider. If you go earlier in the year, you might still have a mountain blanketed by snow. It could get slippery, making the hike exponentially more treacherous.
Either way, the views are going to be stunning. As long as you are prepared and know what weather to expect ahead of time, then summiting Huron will be very doable.
The views from Huron are among the best of Colorado’s 14ers. The vast mountain ranges and valleys seem to go on forever. The view of the Three Apostles from the top of Huron Peak is iconic. Up here, the views might be the only thing that blow you away more than the wind itself.
Soak it all in. You are a champion.
Don’t feed the marmots. They are pesky little creatures. Although they are adorable and fluffy, you definitely shouldn’t interact with them in any way. They keep to themselves mostly, anyway.
The hike is pet-friendly so you can bring your furry friend, assuming that your furry friend is a dog and not a hamster or something. I encountered a cute lab named Ranger who had summited infinitely more 14ers than I could ever dream of. He was the goodest of boyes.
The Lord of the Rings soundtrack is the most epic thing you could listen to along the way. Pretend that you’ve got some sort of epic mission and are running through the hills trying to escape from the Uruk-Hai. It makes the time go by a little faster. Towards the end of the hike, I would not have been upset if I had a Samwise Gamgee to carry me through the difficult stretches.
Lastly, always stick to the adventurer’s code. Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories.
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