The iconic peaks that make up part of the backdrop of Denver’s Front Range are the Indian Peaks. The Indian Peak Wilderness is a breathtaking area; high alpine meadows, jagged peaks, and pristine alpine lakes make Indian Peaks almost as picturesque as its neighbor to the north, Rocky Mountain National Park. For those who are into peak bagging, the Indian Peaks offer a great sampling of hiking and scrambling. There truly is something for everyone, many 13,000 ft peaks can be summited via a class 2 trails, for those seeking more adventure 3rd and 4th class routes can be found on most peaks.
Every mountain range has a peak that stands out, and in the Indian Peaks that peak is Navajo Peak. At 13,409 feet above sea level, Navajo is the 3rd highest peak in the range. Navajo is a stunning peak, its summit is a unique cone shape that makes it look very challenging. The cone-shaped summit is composed of a pinkish granite and is surprisingly solid.
The routes on Navajo are very good, Gerry Roaches guidebook lists them all as classic. These routes are not for everyone, the standard route is class 3 and requires route-finding skills. But if you are up for summiting a classic peak on a classic route, Navajo is not to be missed.
The standard route up Navajo is “Airplane Gully”. This route is named for a small commercial jet that crashed into it many years ago. The fuselage remains and will be encounter halfway of the main couloir, other debris will be seen throughout the entire couloir. Airplane Gully is 9.2 miles roundtrip and gains 2,910 feet in elevation from the trailhead. There is no trail for most of the accent, and there is loose rock on entire route once the main trail is left.
For those looking for even more adventure, perhaps the best mixed route in the Indian Peaks is on Navajo. A mixed route is one that climbs both snow and rock. Linking Navajo snowfield to the West Chimney is truly a classic outing. It is a moderate. The west Chimney is 4th class and the Navajo snowfield is rated as “steep snow”. With crampons and ice ax steep snow is relatively easy and will not require a rope. The snow climb is 800-1000 ft depending on the time of year. This snowfield ends at the craggy shoulder between Navajo Peak and Apache Peak. This spot on the continental divide is wild and feels very deep in the alpine. From this point it is only a quick scramble to the base of the west chimney. The chimney look steep and intimidating but the rock is solid and bomber handholds and footholds are everywhere. The chimney ends a couple hundred feet below the summit and a quick 3rd class scramble through the pinkish granite leads to the summit.
Navajo Peak is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness specifically the Brainard Lake zone. The Long Lake Trailhead is the specific parking area, this lots fills up fast and chances are, the hike will start a half mile east in the Brainard Lake overflow lot.
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