General Mountain Information: Mt Lindsey
Video Hike Review: Mt Lindsey
Mt Lindsey Trail Rating: ★★★★ (⅘ Stars)
Distance: 8.70 Miles RT
Elevation Start: 10,599 ft
Summit: 14,042 ft
Total Elevation Gain: 3,600 ft
Estimated Time to Complete: 6-7 Hours RT
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult What does this mean?
Class: Class 3/4 – depending on route
Season: July – October
Trailhead: Lily Lake trailhead
Getting Here: Navigate to the small (like spec on the map) town of Gardner, Colorado. Just west of the town on Colorado Highway 69, turn onto a road with signage towards Mosco Pass. Essentially, you are going to stay on this road for about 22 miles until the trailhead. But here is a breakdown of milestones:
Road stays paved for 7 miles, then turns into dirt. After 11.8 miles, stay left onto Forest Road 580. After another 5.8 miles, you will pass the entrance to the Singing River Ranch. The road narrows a bit, but is still very doable with a 2WD car. After another .9 miles, you will pass another ranch (Aspen River) and the road starts to get a bit dicey. From this point, you have about 4.3 miles until you reach the Lily Lake TH. There are sections of the road that are tough with a 2WD car, but for the most part it is doable. Pick your lines and accept you might bottom out. If you are heading to the Lily Lake TH with a lower clearance car, avoid early summer months when snow melt will make the road muddy and eaten out.
Your best bet for getting to Lily Lake TH is to bring printed direction as you will probably not have cell service.
Parking: Mt Lindsey has a small free parking lot at the trailhead. The lot can probably fit about 10 cars with room to park more along the road. Parking is free but there are no restroom facilities (hope you like squatting behind a tree!)
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on Mt Lindsey, but I would recommend against bringing one. Even if your dog is good off leash, the terrain is very steep towards the final ridge and has many sections of loose rocks. Loose rocks are bad for the dog (obviously) but also other hikers. I am very liberal about bringing Juno along for hikes and I left her at home for Mt Lindsey.
Camping: There are spots to camp along the drive to Lilly Lake TH, but just be mindful of the private land along the way. As you get closer to the trailhead, the grade of camping spots somewhat dwindles, but if you need to camp, it will not be hard to find a spot.
Make it a Loop: This hike is an out and back, but there are a few options to extend or loop your hike to Mt Lindsey. If you plan on sticking to Mt Lindsey, you can take the Northwest Ridge up the mountain and the standard North route down. This forms a lollipop loop. If you want to venture outside of Mt Lindsey, you can always take the trail to Lily Lake.
Trail Summary: Mt Lindsey is a “14er” located in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The trail to the summit is fairly straightforward until you reach the final ridge. At this point, you need to choose between poor conditions and class 3 hiking or good trail conditions and class 3 or 4 with lots of exposure. Both routes present their challenges. Trail conditions throughout the mountain range from packed dirt to loose rock.
Trail X Factors: Final Summit Stretch
Without a question, the biggest X Factor of Mt Lindsey is the final summit stretch of trail. Once you reach the west shoulder of the mountain, you have a decision to make: take the northwest ridge or north (standard) route. Both routes present their challenges, especially depending on the time of year. If is spring/early summer, you have the challenge of slippery, melting snow. Summertime brings loose dirt and rocks, fall brings early snow. Regardless of the time of year, be sure to pack for all weather and make sure micro-spikes are in your bag.
- Hiking Boots
- Mickey’s Mountain Kit
- Water / Snack
- Optional: Mountain Axe
- Optional: Camera
- Optional: Tripod
- Optional: Retractable Hiking Poles (if not retractable, do not bring)
Mick’s Tip: Everyone has a different skill level, but if you plan on hiking Mt Lindsey, I would recommend you are comfortable with exposure as both routes have it. An ideal hike of Mt Lindsey would be when there is a small level of snow (to avoid the loose dirt and flying rocks). In those conditions, I would ascend via the northwest ridge and descend via the standard route. If you plan on hiking during the drier summer months, I would probably recommend ascending and descending via the northwest ridge. Although this route offers much more exposure, the footing is much much better here.
Photography Tip: Mt Lindsey is fantastic for landscape photos. A quarter mile into the hike, you walk into a large field with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo range. This would be a good place to backcountry camp and shoot the stars. Along the hike, you will have great views of Mt Blanca, Carpenter Peak and Little Bear Peak. If you like using GoPro or first person video, the final ridge is a really cool spot to shoot some footage.
Mick’s Trip Mt Lindsey
Mt Lindsey had been on my hit-list for a while. In fact, I had planned on hiking it a few times earlier in 2016, but as we all know, plans change. The Fall of 2016 was a warm one, so on Veterans Day, I decided to make use of my day off and finally hike Mt Lindsey.
I hit the road at 4:30AM and arrived at the trailhead right around 8AM. I was fairly surprised about the road conditions on the way in. I had read they could be dicey, but I found them to be pretty mild compared to some other drives I have made over the years. You never know with County Roads though.
Since I had planned a couple of failed trips to Mt Lindsey, I was pretty familiar with what to expect on this hike. Even though the fall had been seasonably warm, there was still snow on several of the peaks in the area which made me curious about the conditions on the summit of Mt Lindsey.
After only a ¼ mile of hiking, I entered a huge open field where the views forced me to break out my camera for the first time that day. To my south, I could see Mt Blanca and to the west I could see Carpenter Peak. I snapped a few shots and moved on.
The sun was still low in the morning sky and the temperatures were in the low 30s, perfect conditions for hiking in my opinion. For the first mile or so, the trail followed a nearby creek, crossing it several times. After a mile and a half of flat hiking, that almost lulled me to sleep, the trail picked up its intensity. I was still following the stream, but the trail now worked its way into a boulder field and out of the valley I was in.
As I slowly ascended out of the east side of the valley, I passed by a cave that I had to stick my head into. There was a huge part of me that really wanted to venture deeper into the cave, but I was aware how dangerous it could be and I also didn’t have lots of hours to burn in terms of daylight. One of these days, I am going to bring a canary on a hike so that I can stick it in front of me and venture deeper into a cave. #miningjokes
I continued to follow the stream up from the valley and eventually reached a massive basin to the west of Mt Lindsey, about 3 miles into the hike. The views up there were tremendous, but I was still not sure which peak actually was Mt Lindsey. As I snacked on a RXbar and drank some water, I saw where the trail was heading and finally figured out my general direction of travel.
After snack time, I continued to follow the dirt trail up to the shoulder that separated Mt Lindsey from the Iron Nipple. I wondered how a mountain got to be named Iron Nipple. I am not sure it looked like a nipple, much less an iron one. Is there a difference?
My thoughts of nipples were quickly erased as I approached the ridge of Mt Lindsey. I had planned on hiking the northwest ridge of the mountain and my plan looked to be solid. The standard route of the mountain was covered in about 4-5 inches of snow whereas the northwest ridge was barren. I followed the trail to the north side of the ridge and after about a half mile of hiking, realized that I was notably on the wrong route. I stopped to put on my microspikes and continued hiking up the couloir knowing that I would end up at the summit one way or the other.
I eventually reached a false summit of the couloir and decided to try and hook up with the northwest ridge because with the fresh snow, I honestly had lost all traces of the standard trail. I went off trail and headed straight up to the ridge. When I did reach the ridge after some steep, exposed sections of scrambling, the false summit of Mt Lindsey was in view and I was there a couple minutes later. It was somewhat demoralizing to see the real summit another couple hundred yards away, I did not realize Mt Lindsey has a false summit. A quick ridge walk later, I was at the summit of Mt Lindsey. I was pumped! Twenty Two out of fifty
three eight 14ers in the books. A couple of minutes later, another hiker reached the summit (perfect timing to snap my summit photo).
The views from the top of Mt Lindsey were great west and south, but just okay looking north and east. For me, any time I can see civilization from the summit of the mountain, those views are not ideal.
Usually the trek down from a mountain is pretty mindless and uneventful. That was not the case on Mt Lindsey. I ended up taking the standard route all the way down the north ridge and boy oh boy was it tricky. The snow was very slippery and my microspikes were an absolute life saver. I slowly worked my way down the snow covered ridge and was very relieved to be down the steep terrain and back onto soil.
I was walking down the shoulder of the mountain and noticed a big male bighorn sheep in front of me. I took a few more steps and saw 6 more grazing on the hill in front of me. The sheep in front of me were not very old (looked to be young adults at the oldest) but I noticed another male in the area. I decided to take a seat and watch them graze for a while.
The two large males stared and then started to move towards each other. One provoked the other with kicks to the body. Turns out, that was the breaking point. They quickly backed away from one another, gave a death stare, and rammed their large horns against the opponent. They repeated this a few times and each time they made contact, it sounded like a gun was shot, echoing in the surrounding valley. I was in awe.
I had seen this sign of dominance on the National Geographic channel, but to see it in real life, stunning. After a few rams to the head, they seemed to lose interest and sauntered away from one another. I stayed perched on a rock for another 20 minutes hoping for a round two, but no luck. Eventually, I kept moving down the mountain in the fading afternoon light. For the remaining 3 miles, I could not stop thinking about what I had just seen and how lucky I was.
When I got back to the parking lot, the Friday night light was fading and I was ready to go home. Mt Lindsey was a great hike and one that I will remember for a long, long time. The hike itself was not terribly difficult and with the right equipment, can be very enjoyable.