The Direct from Hwy 24 route up Badger Mtn is exactly what it says it is. Park your vehicle at the Wilkerson Pass TH, cross the highway, and you literally start up the mountain. If you're interested in a steep bushwhack up a mountain that doesn't get a lot of visitors, this is a route for you. There was no established trail that I could find. The hike is approx 1 mile in length from TH to the summit. But it's all uphill.
The elevation at the TH is 9,502 ft. The summit is 11,294 ft. So the vertical gain on this route is 1,792 ft.
Drive on Highway 24 to the Wilkerson Pass TH. There is a Smokey the Bear Fire Warning sign by the road. Check your map. This TH is located between the towns of Hartsel and Florissant, CO. The TH is located on the south side of the highway, Badger Mtn is on the north side.
Starting from the Wilkerson Pass TH, cross Hwy 24 and begin your hike. I didn’t recall mention of a trail in Gerry Roach’s book, “Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness,” and I couldn’t find one either. So this route will require bushwhacking. When I did this, I needed to follow a NNE direction to the top. Depending on how far along Hwy 24 you walk before starting up the mtn, your bearing might be a little different than mine was.
From the highway, this looks like a simple uphill trek. One person described it to me as "fairly straightforward." But I found it had a lot more rocks and steepness than I expected.
Trailblazing my way up this steep route, I was continually working through fallen trees, rocks and branches. This is the case most of the way up. After you get up in the trees and the summit is hidden from view, be sure to periodically check your compass to maintain the proper bearing you need. Progress is slow going and takes some determination, so don't be in a rush.
If you turn around and look down, you can easily see far up you have gone. When I took the picture below, I could still see my car down at the TH if I looked real close!
When I reached the summit ridge, I had overshot my bearing slightly and I was actually on the ridge’s southeastern edge. Not a problem. From there I just headed back NW on the ridge to reach the actual summit. There was even a slight rock scramble at this point to get up on the actual ridge. That was an unexpected little treat.
It wasn‘t until I was up on the ridge that I found footprints, cairns, and campfire sights, etc, indicating other people had been here. At 10:15 AM, I was on the 11,294 ft. summit. There you will find the infamous gray, government surplus drawer that marks it. The uphill climb up this route took me exactly 2 hours.
I followed my same route back down. You will hear traffic again on Hwy 24 as you get closer to the bottom. At 12:30 PM I was back at Wilkerson Pass. So the entire hike using this route took me a little over 4 hours.
I thoroughly enjoyed this route up Badger Mountain. But it was definitely a challenge - a little more so than I expected.
I did this hike in June, so standard summer hiking gear would be appropriate for that time of year. Bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen. Since this route faces south, the sun will be beating down on you. I strongly recommend trekking poles, particularly for the way back down. This will help minimize sprained ankles and falls due to stumbling, slipping or catching your foot in the rough, uneven terrain.