Distance – 5.4 miles round trip (8.69 km)
Height – 14,048 feet (4,281.8 m)
Elevation gain – 2,555 feet (778.76 meters)
Duration – 5 – 7 hours (book time dependant upon trailhead start)
Difficulty – Strenuous
Class: Class 2 Hike
Seasons – This hike can be completed in all seasons, but winter is especially difficult, and dangerous. Roads to trailheads close in winter.
Trailhead Location – American Basin Trailhead (11,600 Feet) | Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch Trailhead (10,420 Feet)
Need To Know Information
- Dogs are allowed on this hike.
- Camping is allowed at the trailhead.
- The road to the trailhead is rough, but accessible for 4wd vehicles at American Basin, or high clearance 2WD at Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch.
- The road to the trailheads close in winter.
Hiking Route Options
American Basin Trailhead | Standard Route – 5.4 Miles Round Trip – 2,555 Feet Elevation Gain (778.764 meters)
This is the standard route up Handies and the easiest route to the summit. The basin is incredibly beautiful and so is the drive. Dispersed camping is available along the road in several different areas. Driving and road information is located below.
The trail begins and hikers travel with a gradual gain upwards into the basin. The trail is very well traveled and easy to follow.
1.6 miles in, hikers will reach a small spur trail to Sloan Lake which sits a little below 13,000 feet.
From here, the hike begins to climb up to the ridge with a series of easily traveled switchbacks. Once hikers reach the ridge, they are rewarded with incredible views, and a clear view of the the trail heading up loose dirt and some scree to the summit.
Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch – 7.74 Miles (12.46 km) – 3,753 Feet (1143.91 M) Elevation Gain
This route starts from the Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch Trailhead at 10,420 feet and follows an almost perfectly gradual gain to the summit of Handies. Hikers ascend the north ridge via this route with beautiful views of the Silver Creek valley, and the route features meadows, and great views of Handies Peak.
Grizzly Gulch & American Basin Loop – 10 Miles (16.09 km) – 4,051 Feet (1234.75 m ) Elevation Gain
A great loop to experience the entire scenic trip would be to leave from Grizzly Gulch trailhead, hike to the summit, continue down into American Basin, and hike the road all the way back out to your starting point. This is a 10 mile loop and an amazing option to experience both of the stunning routes to Handies Peak.
Standard Route In Yellow, Grizzly Gulch / Silver Creek Route In Red
Camping For Handies Peak
Hikers most frequently stay in the town of South Fork, but the road leading to the trailhead contains campgrounds, like Mills Creek Campground, and various places to camp. There are various dispersed campsites off the side of the road heading towards American Basin. Be sure to avoid any of the marked private lands. The Grizzly Gulch / Silver Creek trailhead also has some established tent sites.
Current Weather Conditions:
Here is the detailed weather forecast for the next few days. We highly recommend you check out the mountain forecast for this peak the morning of your hike.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 50. West wind around 10 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 32. West wind 5 to 10 mph.
Sunny, with a high near 50. West southwest wind 10 to 15 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 33. West southwest wind around 10 mph.
A chance of snow showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms between noon and 1pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 1pm and 2pm, then a chance of snow showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms between 2pm and 3pm, then a chance of thunderstorms and a chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 45. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
A chance of thunderstorms and a chance of rain and snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 32. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
A chance of snow showers and a chance of thunderstorms after noon. Partly sunny, with a high near 44. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Directions & Parking
2WD vehicles can make it to the Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch. The standard trailhead requires a 4WD vehicle with some good clearance. A small stream crossing is necessary to get to the American Basin trailhead. This is achievable for 4WD vehicles in most conditions. In spring, it can be pretty deep, and hikers can find parking spots before the stream crossing if they feel uncomfortable crossing. This adds about 1 mile each way.
The below Google pins are correct, though there are reports that Google and Apple may not have perfect directions along the dirt roads. Be sure to study the map and follow these directions:
From Lake City, Take Highway 149 south for 2.5 miles and turn right on County Road 30 (Lake San Cristobal Road) toward Lake San Cristobal. Follow the paved road that turns to dirt about 4.0 miles in, then continue for 12.6 miles. Look for a sign on the left (south) side of the road for Handies Peak. At the left turn, this is where most 2WD vehicles will park. Find open parking space along the side of the road.
These directions will take you directly passed the Grizzly Gulch trailhead which is clearly marked and has a good sized parking area along with bathrooms.
Directions to American Basin Trailhead:
Directions to Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch Trailhead:
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and sharing experiences with others. Max is a published author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about