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Circuit from Hancock Pass

Circuit from Hancock Pass

Circuit from Hancock Pass

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 38.62080°N / 106.3741°W

Object Title: Circuit from Hancock Pass

Route Type: Hiking

Season: Summer, Fall

Time Required: Most of a day

Route Quality: 
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Page By: Sarah Simon

Created/Edited: Dec 29, 2011 / Dec 29, 2011

Object ID: 768204

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Page Score: 79.04%  - 10 Votes 

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Remainder of Route from southern slopes
Remainder of Route from southern slopes of "Hancock Peak"

This route provides for a great day’s adventure, combing an easy Jeep trip with a slog up and down talus to visit the summits of three Sawatch Thirteeners. The scenery in every direction is non-stop and jaw-dropping. The talus can be cumbersome at times, but with careful route-finding solid footing can most always be found.

This route is high, largely trackless and delightfully wild. It would, however, be a bad place to get stuck in bad weather as there are few bailout options. A clear day with a solid high-pressures system would be ideal for this outing.
This route follows both the Continental Divide as well as the Chaffee County / Gunnison County line.

Roundtrip Distance: 6.5 miles
NET Elevation Gain: 2,700 feet (cumulative much higher)
YDS Class: 2+

Route Elevation Profile
Route Elevation Profile

Getting There

Getting There 1
Getting There 3
Getting There 2

Getting There Map

To reach Hancock Pass from the east

From Hwy 285 near Nathrop, head west on Rt 162. Follow Rt 162 west for 15 miles to Hancock Road (FS 295). This road is suitable for passenger cars to the Hancock Townsite, but the route gets increasingly rough toward Hancock Pass. Those with low-slung 4x4s may wish to park at the turn-off for Hancock Lakes. Otherwise, continue on increasingly rocky terrain to park at Hancock Pass, elevation 12,140 feet. A few boulders, hairpin turns and rock ledges make this route fun for reasonably experienced drivers with a beefy stock 4x4, but it might be a bit much for inexperienced off-road drivers or those pushing their vehicles to their limits.

This driving route is not only incredibly scenic but chock-full of mining history, so I recommend allowing time on your descent to explore the area. The drive will take you past or near the townsites of St.Elmo, Iron City, Romley and Hancock.

Getting There 5
Easy section of dirt road
Getting There 6
Hancock Pass parking
Getting There 4
Hancock Pass 12,240 ft.

Route Map

Route Map

Mount Aetna and Middle Fork
Mount Aetna and Middle Fork
Pomeroy Mountain from Hancock Lakes
Pomeroy Mountain from Hancock Lakes

Key Waypoints

Hancock Pass38.6208-106.3741
"Hancock Peak"38.6171-106.3669
Van Wirt38.6061-106.3646
"Van Wit"38.5990-106.3596
Monumental Peak38.5927-106.3580
Chalk Creek Pass38.6063-106.3505
Hancock Lakes38.6151-106.3538

Route Description

 From the rustic parking area at Hancock Pass, ascend the talus on the northern ridge of “Hancock Peak.” After just a bit more than ½ mile of travel and few minor false summits, you will reach the top.

Glorious Talus Slog
Glorious talus slog out of Hancock Pass
Looking back toward Hancock Pass
Looking back toward Hancock Pass from "Hancock Peak"
North toward  Hancock Peak  summit
North toward "Hancock Peak" summit from southern slope

 Descend “Hancock Peak” in a curving line trending mostly southward toward Van Wirt Mountain. Approximately 1 mile away from “Hancock Peak,” reach the summit of Van Wirt.

Descending the southern slopes
Descending the southern slopes of "Hancock Peak"
North from Van Wirt
North from Van Wirt

Ascending Van Wirt Mountain
Ascending Van Wirt Mountain

 Descend steeply down steep talus of Van Wirt mountain to a saddle between Van Wirt and “Van Wit.” Begin climbing again to top out on the un-named, un-ranked “Van Wit.”

Summit of  Van Wit
Summit of "Van Wit"
Northeast from  Van Wit
Northeast from "Van Wit"
North-northeast from  Van Wit
North-northeast from "Van Wit"

 From there, the summit of Monumental Peak is only ½ mile away as the raven flies, but it looms pretty menacingly ahead and above you.

Across Hancock Pass from  Van Wit
Across Hancock Pass from "Van Wit"
Monumental Peak
Monumental Peak
Across Chalk Creek Pass
Across Chalk Creek Pass

 Strike out on a curving line following the ridge crest. The terrain is a mix if rocky talus and tundra all the way to the summit of Monumental Peak.

Views east from Monumental Peak
Views east from Monumental Peak
Tomichi Creek drainage
Tomichi Creek drainage
Descending Monumental Peak
Descending Monumental Peak

 After savoring the views from Monumental Peak, retrace your steps back to “Van Wit.”

Looking back along the route
Looking back along the route from Monumental Peak

 From the top of “Van Wit,” descend northeast toward Chalk Creek Pass over large blocks. (This was my least-favorite part of the trip. Easy scrambling is required, but by this time I was ready to just let out my stride and stretch my legs on tundra or a trail.)

Descending  Van Wit
Descending "Van Wit"
Talus descent to Chalk Creek Pass
Talus descent to Chalk Creek Pass
UN 13147 and Mount Aetna
UN 13147 and Mount Aetna

 Nearing Chalk Creek Pass, the footing turns thankfully to tundra. Hop on the pack trail and head north-northeast (left) down Chalk Cree Pass. Enjoy the smooth footing for a change and quickly descend into the willows to the Hancock Lakes.

Dropping into Hancock Lakes
Dropping into Hancock Lakes

 Continue on the trail to the parking area for FS 295. Here, depart the trail and navigate through willows and mostly sparse timber for about ¾ mile to regain the road to Hancock Pass. Use an un-named little pond about mid-way between the two roads as a landmark.
 Ascend the rocky dirt road trending southwest back to your 4x4!

Essential Gear

Hancock Lakes
Hancock Lakes

 Trails Illustrated #130 Salida, St. Elmo | Mount Shavano
 Colorado Atlas and Gazatteer
 Solid, supporting boots with good grip for all the talus slogging
 Plenty of water for the dry ridge run
 Outerwear appropriate to the season


Pomeroy Mountain from Hancock LakesNorthward along the routeNorth-northeast from "Van Wit"Hancock LakesGetting There 1Ascending Van Wirt MountainMount Aetna and Middle Fork
Across Hancock Pass from "Van Wit"UN 13147 and Mount AetnaDropping into Hancock LakesSummit of "Van Wit"Descending "Van Wit"Remainder of Route from southern slopesGetting There 2
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