When the wildflower season is over the fall colors haven’t begun, it is 14er season for me. Warmer weather, less chance for storms, and rewarding summits are just a few reasons why to save 14ers for the end of August and early September.
While I generally avoid hiking 14ers on weekends or holidays, with a surprise, early snowstorm in the forecast, I headed to Buena Vista with my friend Colin to bag my third 14er for the season after getting the hole in my heart closed in January.
I had subconsciously taken a five-year hiatus from the popular peaks due to feeling so rotten after hiking them. Who knew I wasn’t getting enough oxygen? While I can’t say I feel perfect after summiting them now, at least I can function afterwards.
Getting to Huron Peak
My third 14er for the summer, Huron Peak, was the easiest of the season and one of the prettiest I’ve hiked. Standing 14,003’, this mountain is part of the Sawatch Range. It is located a few miles from the abandoned mining town of Winfield off Forest Road 390.
Forest Road 390 is a dirt road littered with dispersed campsites in the San Isabel National Forest. Even a 2WD sedan can make it to Winfield as well as the Missouri Mountain parking area where other 14ers; Belford, Oxford, and Missouri Mountain, may all be accessed.
Having said that, the last two miles of the road from Winfield requires a high clearance, 4WD vehicle. The road narrows and three or four ditches keep a regular car from making it up the otherwise easy road.
Unfamiliar with this road, we pulled off about a mile shy of the parking area. We should have reviewed our directions from 14ers.com more carefully as we could have easily made it further. While our mistake only added two miles to the 6.5 mile trail which gains 3,500 feet in elevation, adding mileage to a 14er is my first choice.
At least it gave us time to warm up on a lesser grade before starting our ascent up Huron on the cool September morning. In addition, the walk through the valley surrounded by sunlit peaks with the bright moon above, was a special treat.
The Hike to Huron Peak
The trail ascends through a spacious forest with intermittent views of the valley below and slopes dotted in yellow from aspen leaves turning unseasonably early due to a very dry August.
After 1.75 miles of a steady climb, the path to Huron’s summit opens into a giant basin which offers a short reprieve. This is a nice place to refuel and enjoy the views from above treeline.
The next 1.25 miles, however, is a long trek up switch backs through a large talus field. The grade increases and the last push to the summit is extremely steep. Having said that, with little exposure and a relatively light breeze at the top, the climb was trouble-free.
Being a holiday, we shared the summit with twenty others, but overall the groups of hikers spread out across the mountain side. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking Huron Peak, and felt like it would be very rewarding for newbies with its variety, beauty, length, and straight forwardness. It is also a very good peak for dogs!
Our descent was uneventful, though, as always the last mile or so seemed long! Still, while wanting to be back to the car, I couldn’t ignore the relics of Banker Mine below the upper parking area. All-in-all, we had a perfect day for hiking, though I can’t say the same for the car.
Somehow, while we camped the previous night, a mouse got into the vehicle and ate a lot of Colin’s food which wasn’t in a cooler or bag! In addition, he got a slow leak in his tire after running over a screw. It’s always an adventure in the wilderness! ETB