The Collegiate Peaks are named after famous American Ivy League universities with names such as Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale and Mt. Princeton. The peaks are a mountain climbers paradise due in part to the fact that eight of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners are located here in close proximity to one another. The following is a list of the Collegiate peaks that exceed fourteen thousand feet in elevation: La Plata Peak, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, Mt Oxford, Mt. Belford, Huron Peak, and Mt. Missouri.
The Collegiate Peaks wilderness boundary is oddly shaped with many road intrusions causing ‘lollypop’ like boundary contortions. Because of this, a visitor is never more than a two or three miles from a public road. This limits the isolation and remoteness of the Collegiate peaks wilderness.
Like the rest of the peaks in the Sawatch range, the Collegiate peaks have broad treeless summits consisting of loose talus which gradually drop off to forested slopes and a wide base thousands of feet below. This differs from other ranges in Colorado where grassy summits or rugged escarpments are the norm. Much of the wilderness consists of high peaks, most above twelve thousand feet in elevation, separated by forested valleys, marshy meadows, and mountain streams lined by willow brush that is typical of this climate zone.
The wilderness is located in the central part of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, near the cities of Buena Vista, and Aspen, Colorado.
The Collegiate peaks form part of the Continental Divide, a geographical feature that separates the Pacific drainage from the Atlantic drainage. Because the area is at an extremely high altitude, the peaks and high passes are buried in deep snow until mid-July. For backcountry use, the wilderness is best visited in the warmer months of July, August, and September.
Lake Anne Trail – Moderate, 3 miles one-way. This is a day-hike to Lake Ann at 11,800 ft surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Three Apostles. The trail also serves as part of the Continental Divide trail. The trailhead is located at the end of 4WD road FR 390.2B. Start heading west on Clear Creek Valley Road (FR 390). At the town of Winfield, head south on FR 390.2B to the trailhead.
La Plata Peak – Strenuous, 5 miles one-way. There is talus (rock) scrambling section near the summit. For the more ambitious, 14,336 ft. La Plata Peak is a relatively easy fourteener climb from a trailhead immediately off of Hwy 82 on the east side of Independence Pass. The trailhead is located at the junction of FR 391 and Hwy 82.
If you are planning a trip, I highly recommend this tear-resistant, waterproof map by National Geographic. All of the surrounding backcountry access roads, forest service trails, ski trails as well as the local wilderness information is shown on this one neat map.
National Geographic Trails Illustrated map of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Printed in color on durable tear-resistant plastic. This map contains everything you need to navigate the trails of the Collegiate Peaks.
Holy Cross Wilderness, Mt. Massive Wilderness, Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness