Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
In the winter, the road to the trailhead is closed near the ranches, many miles below Lily Lake Trailhead.
The land manager requests dogs be leashed. Dogs will do fine on this hike, but will keep you on the trail and off the fun (but short) scramble below the summit.
Lying north of the Blanca Massif and undeniably in its shadow, Mt. Lindsey is an impressive 14er hike in its own right. While the vast majority is class 1 through forest and across a basin, a brief "mountaineer's route" below the summit provides around 20-30 mins of incredibly fun scrambling on solid rock. There's a class 2 route back down for any interested.
Need to Know
While 95% of this hike is extremely straightforward, the ridge scramble is technical enough to warrant use of a helmet. It can be kept to class 3 by excellent route finding, but for all practical purposes is class 4. It's steep but on solid rock, and the exposure isn't all that bad. Fast hikers should expect this route to take around 5-6 hrs in its entirety, although most will be closer to 8-10.
From Walsenburg, drive west on CO 69 into the quirky town of Gardner. The population is around 50, but what the town lacks in populace it makes up for in character: just stop by the "grocery store" for a strange experience.
From Gardner, drive 0.5 miles west of town and turn left on the Mosca Pass road. Just after the start of the road, a USFS signs should say "Huerfano and Lily Lake Trailheads," 21.5 and 22.5 miles, respectively. After 7 miles, the road turns to dirt (2WD). Continue 4.8 more miles and stay left on forest road 580. Drive 3.4 miles and enter private property, where another sign indicates Huerfano TH is 5.3 miles away. Continue 3.4 miles and stay left at the entrance to the Singing River Ranch. Drive 0.9 miles and pass the entrance to the Aspen River ranch. From here the road is narrower and rougher, although it can still be managed with most 2WD vehicles. 4WD with decent clearance is recommended in the early summer due to erosion and standing water. Drive 3.4 miles to enter the San Isabel National Forest. Drive 0.8 miles and pass some signs for the Huerfano and Zapata Trails. Finally, come to the Lily Lake Trailhead in one more mile.
From the trailhead, follow clear signs to the Lily Lake Trail (there are no other trails at this TH). Head south and walk through a large meadow. From here, you can see the Blanca Massif straight ahead, with the Iron Nipple (13er) across the basin to its left. Hike one mile on mostly flat, clear terrain before coming to a trail junction with a sign for Lily Lake. Stay left, since you're not going to the lake. In another hundred yards or so, cross a river on some rocks and/or downed trees. Follow the trail away from the river, passing a boulder field on your left at around 10,800 ft.
From here, the grade cranks up. Follow the trail up 600 ft and come to a low-grade drainage to your right. Follow the trail along the gully before hiking back into the trees. Reach tree line at around 12,000 ft, just about 3 miles in. The going is slower from here.
Drop a hundred feet or so, heading to the left into the basin between Mt. Lindsey and the Blanca Massif. Follow the mostly class 1, occasionally rocky trail southeast. Come to a flat area around 12,200 ft before continuing back up to reach another flat area at 13,000 ft. It's rockier from here on out. Reach the 13,200 ft saddle between Iron Nipple (13,000 ft, to the left) and Mt. Lindsey (14,042 ft, to the right).
Follow the trail to the right along the rocky saddle. The northwest ridge is fairly clear, with a brief, steep face about halfway up. The rock here is solid. The gully to the left, which is the standard route, is loose and unpleasant but makes for an easier descent. This featured hike involves a scramble up the ridge and descent down the gully.
About 100 yards from the saddle, leave the trail, hiking up and to the right to attain the ridge. Most of this lower area can be done without hands, although there's plenty of class 3 fun for the adventurous. Continue to be funneled upward before coming to some low-grade class 3. In about 15 minutes come to the crux of the route, which was visible from the saddle. This "wall" isn't really all that steep, but can appear pretty intimidating. It's only about 50 vertical feet. Bypass the difficulties by circumnavigating the wall on its left side, or continue up a wide crack for some fun class 4. The right side offers another bypass but is much more exposed. Top out on the crux wall onto class 2+ terrain. From here, it's about 0.1 miles back to clear trail, and the remainder of the route is very clear. Follow the fairly flat gravel path to the summit.
From Lindsey's flat summit, enjoy the views of the Blanca Massif. Hike back down the trail, this time dropping into a steep, loose gully to your right. Drop about 300 feet and hike down talus back to the trail below the technical ridge you ascended. Alternatively, simply descend this ridge and avoid the rocky gully.
Flora & Fauna
There aren't a lot of wildflowers in this area: expect lush forest down low and a grassy basin up high. Marmots and pika are everywhere, though.
History & Background
Prior to 1954, Mt. Lindsey was known as "Old Baldy." Its namesake was Malcolm Lindsey, a popular Colorado Club youth chaperone.
Shared By: Tyler Prince