"Lackawanna" - Northwest Ridge

Difficulty:  Class 2 
Upper Elevation: 13,823 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 10,780 feet
Elevation Gain:3,600 feet
Round-trip Length: 7.75 miles
Trailhead: North Lake Creek
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Route Added: 10/02/2012
Last Updated: 02/18/2013


From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west towards Twin Lakes. Drive approx. 18.5 miles on Colorado 82 to reach the marked trailhead entrance on the right. It’s right before a switchback on the highway. Drive 0.1 mile down a dirt road to reach the trailhead parking area.


From the parking area, take the main trail east and then north for 0.2 mile. Before the old road/trail passes between a couple of large boulders, turn right and look for a faint trail which leads down toward the creek – Photo #1. Walk down to a rock-filled trench/old road and follow it northeast for 0.1 mile to reach the main stream - Photo #2. Cross the stream and continue right on an old road which heads east into the trees. Staying on the road, switchback 0.7 mile to 11,400’ and locate a trail on the left side of the road - Photo #3. Finding this trail is turn-off is important. Follow the trail for over 0.1 mile to reach the ruins of an old cabin and then another one just to the east - Photo #4. At the second cabin, turn hard-right and locate the trail as it continues southwest up into the forest - Photo #5. Carefully follow the trail (Photo #6) east as it becomes less-defined and overgrown before reaching a distinct gully - Photo #7. Do not cross the gully - turn right and continue west up the trail. Near 11,900’, the trail becomes vague (Photo #8) as you pass under some steep ledges in the forest - Photo #9. There’s no need to climb up through the ledges so try to stay on-trail and continue southwest beneath the ledges. The trail exits the trees through a gap near 12,000’ - Photo #10, which is indicated on topo map #2 as “Tree Line.”

Continue south out of the trees and you’ll find yourself at the base of a steep, talus slope (Photo #11) below the ridge which must be gained to summit Lackawanna. The slope is loose and a bit dangerous but you can mitigate this by hiking a bit farther south to bypass some of the ledges and talus difficulties before turning left to begin your ascent - Photo #12. Taken from Highway 82, Photo #13 provides a different look where you can see why it’s easier to head south for a bit before climbing the slope. Once you pick your line, climb approx. 1,000’ (Photo #14 and Photo #15) to reach the ridge crest between 12,900’ and 13,000’ - Photo #16. Hike south along the ridge, work your way around some rocky sections (Photo #17) and reach the top of Unnamed 13,660’ (Photo #18) where you can see the summit of Lackawanna, just over 1 mile away - Photo #19.

Drop southeast from Unnamed 13,660’ (Photo #20) and walk along the ridge to reach a large, flat area - Photo #21. Continue south, bypassing the top of Point 13,590’, and ascend a false summit (Photo #22 and Photo #23) where you can finally see the true summit, 0.25 mile to the south - Photo #24. Ascend the hump shown in Photo #24 and take a few more steps to gain the summit block - Photo #25. Photo #26 looks back to the northwest.


Route-finding is a bit tricking for this one and if you don’t stick to the trail between the cabins and tree line, you’re in for some steep, ugly bushwacking. The route is best done in summer when Independence Pass is open. For a winter option, consider Lackawanna’s South Slopes route.


Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7 Photo #8 Photo #9 Photo #10 Photo #11 Photo #12 Photo #13 Photo #14 Photo #15 Photo #16 Photo #17 Photo #18 Photo #19 Photo #20 Photo #21 Photo #22 Photo #23 Photo #24 Photo #25 Photo #26

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