Blanca Peak

Blanca, Colorado (Alamosa County)

Last Updated: 01/04/2019
5 /5 ( 3 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Impassable
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 6-8
(DIFFICULT - SEVERE)
Length: 8.3 miles
Highest Elevation: 12200 feet
Duration: About 5 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Blanca
Nearest Town w/ Services: Fort Garland
Official Road Name: 975
Management Agency: Rio Grande National Forest
District: Conejos Peak Ranger District
Distance:
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Blanca Peak
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.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Blanca Peak

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
Concerns:
Summary:
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.

Technical Rating: 6-8
(DIFFICULT - SEVERE)

Rocky or undulated road surface. Rocks less than 84" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 72" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 14' foot. Tire placement not good. Can be steep and off-camber.
Read more about our rating system

Description

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

Waypoints

1. Trailhead (0.00 mi)
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 (5.10 mi)
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 (5.70 mi)
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 (6.00 mi)
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 (6.20 mi)
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 (6.60 mi)
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 (6.70 mi)
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 (6.80 mi)
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 (7.30 mi)
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 (7.60 mi)
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 (8.30 mi)
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.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 37.521950, -105.601520

Starting Point: Walsenberg

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.

Camping

Dispersed
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.
Camping: Blanca Peak

Trail Reviews (5)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
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.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
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!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail is currently impassable due to snow.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
clear all the way up to the lake.

Questions & Answers (4)

Q: Thinking of doing Blanca in a couple of weekends. Could a stock F150 or Tacoma TRD get to Jaws 1? If not how for can we reasonable expect to get? Any pullouts between the mud holes and Jaws 1? Thanks!
–Prosper Wang (09/06/2018)
A: There are lots of pullouts near the swithcbacks. That's like 4 miles in I think? You could easily make it to those. Beyond 4 miles I would start keeping records of pullouts as you pass them in case you reach something the trucks won't go over. Then you can just backtrack to one of those pullouts.
–Ryan Boudreau (09/06/2018)
A: There are no pullouts that I can think of between the mud holes and jaws 1, but there are tons before the mud holes. Honestly, with good agressive tires, you can probably make it to jaws 1, but there are a lot of rocks before that point that will require careful line selection as they could easily hang up a stock vehicle.
–Ryan Boudreau (09/06/2018)
A: Meant to ask how far can we reasonably expect to get. Sorry about the typos.
–Prosper Wang (09/06/2018)
Q: When is this trail passable to the top?
–Cory Miller (05/17/2018)
A: We will give a report tomorrow
–Boris Baeumler (05/31/2018)
A: Obviously the amount of snow each year can very when the trail is clear to the top, but typically it is always open by early July. With the lack of snow this year, I wouldn't be surprised if it's clear by early June, or even now. Unfortunately, we have no current reports of the trail. Medano Pass is open however, and that is a good indication of the trail conditions seen on Blanca.
–Ryan Boudreau (05/17/2018)
Q: Could a Land Rover LR4 with aftermarket tires make it to the top?
–Jeremy (11/20/2017)
A: Hi Jeremy, if you plan on trying this trail wait until mid summer when all the snow has melted :)
–Todd (11/20/2017)
A: The main difficulty with this trail is not the traction, but the sheer size of the obstacles. If the vehicle has low ground clearance or a lot of low hanging spots like bumpers or running boards, it simply won't make it over the rocks. I can't say with certainty that you wouldn't make it, but the probability is very low with that vehicle if the only upgrade is tires. You would also almost certainly take rocker panel damage without some sort of protection there.
–Ryan Boudreau (11/20/2017)
Q: No video for this trail? 6/14/17 Thanks for getting that video up so fast! Very cool trail.
–Dennis Clark (06/14/2017)
A: Hello Dennis. Thanks for pointing that out. Video has been uploaded and you can find the direct link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpaKAp0y2kw&feature=youtu.be
–Ryan Boudreau (06/14/2017)

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado

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, Patrol 16 Sasquatch Jeepers and currently own an '06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (LJ) nicknamed "Minion". 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 other. 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 including Colorado, Utah, Kansas, the Carolinas, AZ, and California. I love a great adventure, and love even more to share those adventures with others. If you see the "minion" out on the trail, make sure to stop and say hello.
For individual use only, not to be shared.