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Hiking Little Bear Peak – Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Colorado

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Article Categories: Hiking
Article Tags: CO 14er | Colorado | Day Hikes

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.

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Trail Map | Trails | Hiking In Winter | Camping | Directions | Pictures

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.

Trail Map

Little Bear Peak Trail Map

Click to see full image

Download GPX Here

 

Routes

 

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

This is not a common winter hike. Extreme caution and experience is necessary for winter summits on this peak.

 

Camping Information

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

 

Weather

Here is a detailed weather forecast for the area:

Blanca, CO

Tonight
A chance of showers and thunderstorms before midnight, then showers and thunderstorms likely between midnight and 4am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 41. Southwest wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Friday
A chance of rain showers before 9am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 9am and noon, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between noon and 5pm, then showers and thunderstorms likely. Partly sunny, with a high near 52. Southwest wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Friday Night
Showers and thunderstorms likely before 9pm, then showers and thunderstorms likely between 9pm and midnight, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between midnight and 3am, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 43. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.

Saturday
A chance of showers and thunderstorms after 9am. Partly sunny, with a high near 56. West wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Saturday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 44. Northwest wind around 10 mph.

Sunday
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 58. West wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Sunday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around 45. West wind around 10 mph.

 

Directions

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:

 

Additional Pictures

Little Bear from the summit of Blanca

Little Bear Peak as seen from the summit of Blanca

Looking down from the top of the hourglass

Looking down from the top of the hourglass

Looking up from the heart of the hourglass

Looking up from the heart of the hourglass

The top of the hourglass

The top of the hourglass

Views from the summit of Little Bear

Views from the summit of Little Bear

Blanca & Ellingwood Point from the summit of Little Bear Peak

Blanca & Ellingwood Point from the summit of Little Bear Peak

Small parking pulloffs at about 10,000 feet on Lake Como road

Small parking pulloffs at about 10,000 feet on Lake Como road

Little Bear Peak as seen from Lake Como

Little Bear Peak as seen from Lake Como

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

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, backcountry skier, 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 climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about

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