Known to be one of the most dangerous and extreme roads Colorado has to offer, Blanca Peak will test both driver and vehicle ability while relentlessly stealing every last drop of mental focus one has to offer. This high-clearance 4wd route is a mix of dangerous obstacles and incredible beauty, all while trekking through the shadows of three, 14,000+ foot peaks. This trail is not for the inexperienced nor the ill-equipped. This mountain has claimed the lives of numerous unfortunate and unprepared individuals. Do not add your name to that list by underestimating this road.
Drivers must traverse five major named obstacles in order of appearance... Jaws 1, Jaws 2, Jaws 2.5, Jaws 3, and Jaws 4. All the major obstacles are created from the skeletal granite bones of the mountain and present a high probability of rollover.
This trail is very popular for hikers. Due to the slow pace on the trail, if you start the trail at the same time as a hiker group, it is very likely you will all end up at the end together, or they may even beat you.
33'' tires, a winch, and at least one differential locker are highly recommended for this trail.
Trail Difficulty and Assessment
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
Waypoint 3 is when the major obstacles start. All of the obstacles are large granite slabs that will tilt your vehicle into significant off camber situations. Because of the break over angles, full size vehicles like pickup trucks are not recommended. Lockers are suggested for this trail, but not necessarily required.
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The hardest part of the trail that you
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The hardest part of the trail that is
purely optional - you can bypass it.
Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks less than 36" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 36" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 84" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.Read More about our Rating System
The trail starts on the valley floor crossing 3 miles of dusty road that starts as sand and gradually increases to small rocks. Once you reach the adopted road sign, the trail begins to steeply climb up the mountain and gradually the rocks increase in size slowly weeding out the stock SUVs. A number of switchbacks provide spectacular views back into the Alamosa Valley. About 4.5 miles in, the trail levels off for a bit, you leave the desert terrain behind and enter the forest. There are several mud holes one must cross before reaching the first Jaws obstacle, and depending on the time of year, these mud holes can be quite deep.
Jaws 1 will finally weed out the remaining stock vehicles and this is where the true fun begins. Climb over the granite spine and drive by several old log cabins. Cross the creek and steady your nerves for the formidable Jaws 2. This second obstacle is the start of several challenging granite obstacles all within a single mile. The terrain once again changes from being in the forest, to being on the mountain's edge. Just before Jaws 2.5 you will encounter a short tippy section that will make you feel fairly uneasy. Jaws 2.5 is a V-notch type obstacle that is fairly easy compared to the other obstacles when the conditions are dry. Very quickly after that, you reach Jaws 3, which is a two part obstacle where the first part has a bypass if needed, but the second part does not. These two granite ledges are the last obstacles before you reach the gorgeous Lake Como. Many people set up camp at this lake and call it a night, but there is still one more obstacle waiting for you.
On the northeast side of the lake, you reach the final major obstacle, Jaws 4. This obstacle is a steep, slick, granite hill climb. Once above this, the road levels off as you begin your final approach to the end at Blue Lakes. The road is rough and slow going, but the rewarded views at the end are simply awe inspiring. You must return the same way you came.
Expect a lot of hiking traffic along this road
1. Trailhead (0
Start the trail just off Highway 150. There is a large area here with an information kiosk where you can air down if you would like to. This sandy road lasts for 2 miles while you head towards the base of the mountains. During those 2 miles, there are many areas to pull off and unload trailers or set up a base camp.
2. Mud holes (5.1
The mud holes at this point vary in depth depending on the time of year, and the amount of moisture the area has seen recently. During the time of this guide creation, which was late August, the holes were quite shallow.
3. Jaws 1 (5.7
The first Jaws obstacle looks like a large granite speed bump crossing the road. This obstacle has a few different options depending on your tire size and breakover angle. Although the far left looks like a viable bypass, it is off-camber with loose rock on the downhill side leaning you down the edge towards the creek below. Taking the obstacle straight down the center till you begin to high center and then letting gravity pull you down the other side is one option that will keep you fairly level. Another option is to stay as high right as possible which has a lower risk of high centering, but can be extremely tippy.
Make sure an understand how your vehicle is reacting to the different lines on this obstacle, because coming back down it is not nearly as easy as going up.
4. Holbrook Creek (6
After crossing Holbrook Creek, the road turns sharply uphill and the path grows increasingly rockier as you steeply climb the mountain side towards the next major obstacle.
5. Jaws 2 (6.2
Smack dab in the middle of a shelf road with the ledge careening down the driver side, Jaws 2 anxiously awaits your arrival. This is the most dangerous obstacle on the trail and carries a long history of rollovers. One in particular, is commemorated with a plaque embedded in the rocks to your right, just before the obstacle. Although not as legendary as it once was, this obstacle still demands respect and focus.
The far left line against the edge is the easiest line, but is still quite tippy and has a lot of pucker due to being on the edge. The far right line is a demanding line that will make the vehicle extremely tippy and tries it's hardest to snag and hold every piece of the undercarriage. A heavy throttle and a bouncing vehicle is a recipe for disaster here. If you do not crawl the line cleanly on your first attempt, stop, back off, and try your approach again.
6. Tippy Spot (6.6
You may have made it past the most dangerous obstacle on the trail, but don't slack off yet. This spot can be quite tippy, especially for a top heavy vehicle that is loaded with camping gear for the weekend. Most vehicles will cross this point without any issues. It feels a lot worse than it actually looks.
7. Jaws 2.5 (6.7
This obstacle is essentially just a V crack. When dry, this obstacle is fairly easy and a great location to test suspension flex. If conditions are wet, the granite can be quite slippery and this obstacle can become frustrating as your vehicle slips and slides its way into the crack.
8. Jaws 3 (6.8
This obstacle is a two part obstacle. You must first climb a series of ledges that flexes the front suspension one way, and the back suspension the opposite way. This first part of the obstacle has a bypass all the way around it to the right, but there is no bypass for the second part.
After climbing the first part of the obstacle, make a hard left and scale the next ledge that has a few different lines with the easiest being far left, and the hardest being far right as it requires more articulation and higher ground clearance.
9. Lake Como (7.3
After traversing the last section of rocky shelf road, you finally come to the shores of Lake Como. This large and beautiful alpine lake is surrounded by trees and mountains. Here there is tons of room for camping, but also expect there to be many campers. The trail continues around the north shore where there is still one major obstacle calling your name.
The eastern shore of the lake has an old cabin ruin and is a great location for a large group of campers. The trail to reach that side of the lake can be hard to find. Upon first arrival at the lake, look to your right where you will see a small, old wood shack. (The shack is shown in the second photo of this waypoint) Just behind that shack to the right, there is a road that crossing the creek and several mud holes working it's way to the eastern shore. Please be courteous to other campers and take it very slow while heading that direction. Also, be sure to stay on the main route and do not create new routes as the terrain is very marshy till you reach the other side of the lake.
10. Jaws 4 (7.6
Jaws 4 is a steep granite incline with just enough uneven ledges and holes to keep all 4 tires from getting traction at the same time. This obstacle is usually wet adding to it's difficulty. Staying far right appears to be the easiest line with the least amount of slippage, but far left was a close second. Down the center proved to be the hardest approach for our group.
11. Blue Lakes / Trail end (8.3
The motorized trail ends at the lowest Blue Lake. Here in this saddle, you are surrounded by "fourteener" giants Ellingwood Point (14,042'), Blanca Peak (14,344'), and Little Bear Peak (14,035'). Blanca Peak is a 2 mile hike from this point.
There are many different areas to camp along Blanca Peak Road. At the start, dispersed camping is allowed all along the valley floor but there is little to no shade. The entire drive up the road is also scattered with pre-established dispersed camp spots. The most popular camping location would be around Lake Como. Because the area is home to multiple 14ers, you will find many hikers making camp at this location, but the spots are abundant, so just keep your eyes peeled for one that is open.
From Walsenburg, take Highway 160 west. Pass through the town of Blanca and continue west for 5.8 miles and turn north on Highway 150 following signs to the Great Sand Dunes. Turn right and head east on road 975, just after mile marker 3. There are many spots to drop trailers and air down all along road 975 as you get closer to the base of the mountains.
Ran this today in a tacoma with 33"s and a locked rear. No snow, only made it up to jaws 2.5 ish before myself and my buddy chickened out. This trail is is definitely one of the more difficult trails I have run. Even though we didn't make it all the way we had an absolute blast.
I’ve been up this road three times in my “pretty much” stock 2014 JKU Rubicon. My jeep easily makes it to Jaws 1 where I always park. There are at least two nice parking spots there. The two major obstacles before Jaws 1 are the “hill” at 10,000 ft (big switchback to the east) and the mud holes at 5 miles. If you’re not in a Rubicon (with lockers, lift, etc) park at 10k below the hill. The mud holes have giant hidden boulders so beware. Otherwise, it’s a fun road and a good test for your Rubi.
Note: This road is more commonly known as the “Como Lake Road” but the sign at the bottom says “Blanca Peak Road.”
We managed to get to Lake Como in our mostly stock Rubicon 2dr JL on 33" tires. We didn't try to go to Blue Lake and after hiking that section, I doubt we could've done it.
We have Metalcloak's skid plates and a winch. The skid plates were put to heavy use on this trail and I used the winch to get up Jaws 2.5 after sliding a bit and getting the lower rock between my bumper and muffler. I'd say our setup is about the absolute minimum you need to get up there. I wouldn't have even attempted it without the skid plates. There were a handful of places it would've been easy to cause some serious damage if things didn't go just right.
On the way down, we took the bypass for the second half of Jaw 3 and found someone parked blocking most of the road where it forks off. Instead of trying to reverse, maybe turn around, and do the full Jaws 3, we managed to *just* squeeze by but got some damage to the driver door from tree branches. Please don't park here...
The lakes and peaks up there are amazing and it's easy to see why this area attracts so many people.
Not sure about the conditions and not wanting to do this solo, I walked the road from the end of the main switchbacks 2.5miles to Como Lake. There is maybe 1 snowbank that could cause an issue right after the cabins, but otherwise this is open to Como. The snow any farther up is considerable, though.
This another great Colorado trail with a little bit of everything. Great scenery, scary cliffs, tough obstacles, lakes, streams, and cell signal most of the time... All the way up to Como lake you can still see the valley below, it's one big climb! There were A LOT of hikers (hundreds) on this trail, be courteous, most of them were very friendly and entertained by us driving up the trail. A great trail to spend a night on!
Started out early Saturday, camped at Lake Como overnight, and descended on Sunday.
Jaws 1 & 2 looked pretty eroded in comparison to the photos from the official trail detail above. Some rock stacking was required to get several in our group over these obstacles, including myself. Tippy Spot and Jaws 2.5 were in good condition. Bypass to Jaws 3 is tight in spots, but not hard. Problem is it's wet, and you can't bypass the second half of Jaws 3, which left us with wet tires for that ascent. Slow and steady won the day...
Word to the wise; If camping, be prepared for anything. Weather report for us was 10% chance of rain. That's it. Clear skies that you can see in the pics turned to light rain quickly, then to sleet, then hail, then downpour with heavy winds. This persisted for a couple hours. Several in our group did not have the gear to hold up to that and got soaked. They had to descend immediately, with very little daylight left, on wet terrain. It was that or potential hypothermia. A couple hikers were caught unprepared as well that our group helped. Be prepared!
The trip down was pretty uneventful, until Jaws 1, which was quite different going down than up. The low side was giving way under the weight of our heavier-than-most Jeep with a Roof Top Tent. We had to back up and go the high side, which was more stable, but the only way to not roll was 6 men on 2 tow straps attached to our Gobi cage holding us up. If we do this again, I'd consider shedding all weight possible, and especially that which is up high.
I will add that we're in a '14 JKU Rubicon, with a 3" lift and 35" tires. We also have lockers front and rear, but our rear locker gave out on the way up. A much lighter XJ with 2.5" lift and 35"s did just fine, too. Actually better than fine, he lead our group.
I would not even consider this trip solo unless you really have 110% confidence in your ability and your rig, and are prepared to the teeth. Clear and present warning aside, this is a "Bucket List" trail, and I highly suggest it.
We climbed up the trail about halfway in a stock 4Runner, just before Jaws 1 before turning around. I brought the family to the sand dunes and had to scratch the off-roading itch a little. It's very interesting to me that this trail starts easy and gets progressively more challenging the further you go, that's a rare thing. It was a great drive, nice scenery.
Trail lives up to the hype. Climbed jaws 1 high right with no issue, 2 around the "bypass", off camber near the cliff. 2.5 with no issues. Jaws 3 climbed on the way up, took bypass on way down. Lake Como was GORGEOUS, but bring your bug spray. They are out in force. Attempted Jaws 4 but the creek crossing before climbing did not bode well. Jaws 2 felt worse to me on the way down with the off camber being cliff side and out of view. Able to get up without winching and lockers, but it will test your nerves!
Trail open to upper lakes. jaws 1,2,3 all dry and clear. Jaws 4 is very wet and had a very small amount of snow on it. Beyond jaws 4 there was snow on some parts of the trail. Till it dead ended into a snow drift at the upper lakes.
Hi, I'm Ryan!
I am a Colorado native and I've been wheeling since I was 16 years old. I grew up with a relentless passion for all things Jeep and off road related, and that passion has never died out. I am a member of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, and currently own a customized '05 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) with a 5.7 Hemi swap.
I am a huge supporter of Stay the Trail and Tread Lightly, and have participated and even been in charge of many trail restoration projects. I have been a trail leader several times for events such as All-4-Fun, ColoradoFest, Set Them Free, 14er Fest, and others. I am also the creator of the Unlimited LJ Adventure.
My rig is built for extreme offroading, but I love to get my tires dirty on any kind of trail whether it's rock crawling or just scenic high Alpine drives. I've wheeled all over the country and love a great adventure, especially if I get to share those adventures with others.
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