Little Bear Peak is a 14,041 foot peak in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Colorado. The common approach to this peak up Lake Como road to Lake Como is an extremely popular destination for off roading / ATV crawling enthusiasts. Once passing the lake and heading up to Little Bear, the hike gets substantially less difficult. Little Bear is often considered one of the more dangerous fourteeners due to extreme rockfall danger, that shouldn’t be taken lightly. In this article, we will highlight everything you should know.
Difficulty – Strenuous
Distance – 11.08 miles round trip (17.83 km) – With high Clearance 4WD vehicle
Height –14,041 feet (4279.7 m)
Elevation gain – 5,448 feet (1660.55 m)
Duration – 8-9 hours (book time)
Hike Class: Class 4
Trailhead Location – Lake Como Trailhead (8,770 Feet)
Dogs – Not recommended for this peak
Need To Know Information
- This hike has a couple trailhead options that we explain below. The trailheads have 2wd and 4wd parking in which many miles can be cut off with a high clearance vehicle.
- There is plenty of camping along the roads leading the trailheads.
- Hikers need helmets for this peak due to rockfall danger.
- This is a really tough day hike if you don’t have a crawling capable vehicle. Many choose to turn this into an overnight via camping at Lake Como or South Zapata Lake
- The type of vehicle you are driving will determine how high you can park on Lake Como road. Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles up before it gets rough. This is explained in more detail below.
- This hike is often combined with Ellingwood and Blanca. They are either hiked separately, or via the class 5 traverse between Little Bear and Blanca.
Little Bear Peak Via Lake Como Road (2WD Vehicle to 8,800 Feet) – 11.08 Miles Round Trip (17.83 km) – 5,448 Feet (1660.55 m) Total Elevation Gain – Class 4
If you park directly off of 150, and don’t travel down the road at all, add 3.11 miles each way and 1,170 feet of elevation gain to the above numbers. Any low clearance 2wd vehicle will need to do this. High clearance vehicles, can make it to 8,800 feet slowly.
This route is pretty simple all the way to Lake Como. Hikers are simply staying along the road the entire way. They will likely have ATVs pass them along the way. Once getting to Lake Como hikers continue on for .4 miles before reaching a junction. The right heads up Little Bear Peak, and the left continues towards Crater Lake. This junction can be hard to spot, especially at night, so bringing a map and your device with GPS is a good idea.
Rockfall danger begins at this turn as hikers head up boulder and scree fields to the saddle. Once hikers reach the saddle, they are rewarded with stellar views and a very cool trail. Following cairns along the ridge towards the base of the feature known as “the hourglass”. This is the area in which little bear has the most danger.
It is class 4 here, steep, and there is a lot of loose rock above the hourglass, meaning that hikers, and natural elements are often causing rocks to come flying through the hourglass. Hikers should be prepared for class 4 climbing, slick rocks, and need helmets here. Extra caution should be taken when hikers are above you, or below you. You can have rocks kicked down at you, and you certainly don’t want to be kicking down rocks at those below you.
The below two routes follow this same path, but we wanted to include the distance and elevations stats for you.
Little Bear Peak Via Lake Como Road (4WD Vehicle to 10,000 Feet) – 8.68 Miles Round Trip (13.97 km) – 3,540 Feet (1,079 m) Total Elevation Gain – Class 4
Many 4wd vehicles like 4runners and stock jeeps can make it up this high, but parking is definitely quite limited. You may also make it to one of the pull offs somewhere between these two points. Simply be prepared to walk 100% of this.
Hiking in Winter
Simply put, there are a lot of camping options for these peaks. Dispersed camping is allowed just about anywhere as long as you follow Colorado rules. See about dispersed camping in the area here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/riogrande/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=29500&actid=50
For those looking to take the Zapata Falls trail, there is the Zapata Falls Campground with 23 individuals camping sites and 1 group site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/riogrande/recarea/?recid=74116
Hikers can also camp just about anywhere heading towards South Zapata Lake following dispersed camping rules: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/riogrande/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=29600&actid=51
Here is a detailed weather forecast for the area:
Patchy blowing snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 30. West southwest wind 20 to 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Patchy blowing snow before 5am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 13. Wind chill values as low as -5. West northwest wind 20 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
A slight chance of snow showers between 2pm and 5pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 23. Wind chill values as low as -5. Northwest wind 15 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Mostly clear, with a low around 11. Wind chill values as low as -5. West northwest wind around 15 mph.
Sunny, with a high near 24. West northwest wind around 15 mph.
Mostly clear, with a low around 13. West wind around 15 mph.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 29. West wind around 15 mph.
The type of vehicle you are driving will determine how high you can park on Lake Como road. Most cars can drive about 1.5 miles on the road before it gets to difficult. 4WD SUVs and trucks can potentially make it 3.25 miles to 8,800 feet. There are parking pull offs at various points. The pull offs at 8,800 feet are popular and gets hikers within 4 miles of Lake Como.
A high-clearance, short length / small, 4WD vehicle may be able to drive to approximately 10,000 feet. An ATV or modified vehicle/crawler can get to Lake Como if the driver is comfortable doing so and experienced.
All of these pull offs do not contain much parking. It is advised to not rely on this parking, and to arrive early to claim a spot. You may have to back track to find spots as this is a very popular road.
Note Of Caution: This road is dangerous past 10,000 feet.
Directions to Lake Como Road 2WD Parking:
Here is a pin at the 8,800 foot mark:
At the 10,000 Foot Mark:
At Lake Como:
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about