From Hancock Lakes

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Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Most of a day
Hike & Talus/Scrambling

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From Hancock Lakes
Created On: Sep 8, 2007
Last Edited On: Oct 13, 2017

Getting There

Directions to the ghost town of Hancock:

From the town of Buena Vista drive 8 miles south on Route 285 to a place known as Nathrop and then turn west onto Route 162. Drive this road 15.3 miles to just before the ghost town of St. Elmo (the first 10 miles are paved and the rest is a well graded dirt road).

Turn left onto Route 295. This road is rougher but is still passable by most/any car. Continue 2.7 miles until you see a detour around an old decaying railroad bridge (The detour is rather steep and the road beyond it is much rougher. I did not need to use 4 wheel drive but I will probably not drive this road in anything less than an SUV). Continue another 2.8 miles to the remains of the old mining town of Hancock.

Route Description

All distances are per my GPS:


Hancock………...11050 ft……………Zero

Lower Hancock
Lake…………….11660 ft…………….1.50 miles

Leave trail……….12000 ft

Saddle…………..12600 ft

Van Wirt…………13024 ft……………1.6 miles

Total………………………………………..3.1 miles

Road to Lower Lake

At the ghost town of Hancock, you will see a trail heading west to the old Alpine Tunnel. Don’t go there. Head south on a rough 4 wheel drive road (you will immediately see a road on the right that goes to Hancock and Williams Passes. Do not turn here either). Hike or drive the road south to end of it at the Lower Hancock Lake (The road will give you good views of the rocky Sewanee Peak to the SE).

At the lower Lake, Van Wirt and the impressive triangular Peak 13254 ft first come to view. Hike south on a trail on the west side of the lower lake until you reach the higher lake. You can leave the trail here and head for the 12600 ft saddle between Van Wirt and Peak 13254 ft. When I was in that area (in early September), the slopes on the west side of the higher lake were covered by beautiful alpine tundra. Please do not trample the tundra. Follow the trail to the east side of the higher lake.
Van Wirt & Peak 13254
Van Wirt & 13254

Before reaching the 12150 ft Chalk Creek Pass you should leave the trail and head west on a stable and not steep talus field toward Van Wirt Peak (If you go to the Chalk Creek Pass, the slopes of Peak 13254 ft appear to become too steep to traverse. You will have to climb Peak 13254 ft before approaching Van Wirt).
12600 ft Saddle
12600 ft Saddle

Head up the talus field toward the 12600 ft saddle. As you go higher, the field becomes steeper but it remains fairly stable. From the 12600 ft saddle, head NW on a rocky ridgetop to reach the summit of Van Wirt. You might have to do some minor hand and foot climbing in at least one spot

Essential Gear

In summer, only good hiking boots.

External Links

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From Hancock Lakes

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