Three Apostles: In the Midst of Giants

A sample from CMC's newest pack guide, The Best Buena Vista and Salida Hikes
CMC Press
May 03, 2022

The Three Apostles, located in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, are an iconic and legendary formation of three 13,000-foot peaks named North Apostle, Ice Mountain, and West Apostle. Although these peaks are considered technical climbs and should not be done without proper gear and experience, the Three Apostles Basin Trail offers an up-close view of these stunning giants, allowing hikers to sit at the feet of these magnificent peaks.

In the newest pack guide from CMC Press, Penelope Purdy guides readers through the valleys and peaks of the Buena Vista and Salida area. With 25 trails to enjoy, this new title is a must-read for any hiking enthusiast. 

Enjoy a free chapter from The Best Buena Vista and Salida Hikes below.


From The Best Buena Vista and Salida Hikes
By Penelope Purdy
Three Apostles Basin and View

COMMENT: Many Buena Vista area trails give glimpses of the rugged, impressive Three Apostles, but this hike takes you right to their base in a high wetland basin that’s often filled with wildflowers. The way to this dramatic cove of cathedral-like mountains is generally pleasant and exceptionally beautiful. But you may also enjoy the wonderful walk into the isolated basin at the foot of these steep walls of rock and ice; you don’t necessarily need to climb a mountain to appreciate its grandeur.

Dogs are allowed on leash. Bird viewing opportunities are good, and wildflower/foliage viewing is excellent. Fishing is good in the creeks but not in the tarn at the base of the peaks. There is avalanche hazard from late fall to late spring.

GETTING THERE: A four-wheel-drive vehicle shortens the approach considerably. From US Highway 24, go west at a brown sign for Chaffee County Road 390/Clear Creek Road. This intersection is about 14.5 miles north of Buena Vista and 20.0 miles south of Leadville. Pass the state wildlife area and follow CR 390, a dirt road friendly to passenger cars, for almost 12.0 miles, driving by historic sites and trails to other 14ers along the way. Reach the old mining site of Winfield. At the ghost town’s west end, turn left at an intersection and cross the creek on a good bridge. Almost immediately after the bridge, two-wheel-drive cars should park either in the pullouts along the road or in the big lot on the road’s left. Do not block the road. SUVs can drive the next 2.2 miles, and you may want to hitch a ride with one of them on the way down. Find plenty of dispersed camping spots along the four-wheel-drive road but bring your drinking water, or filter/treat what you fetch from the creek.

THE HIKE: From the locked gate at the end of the four-wheel-drive road, walk straight west on the old road; do not turn onto the Mount Huron Trail. Read the sign if you’re confused. The Three Apostles Trail shares the first, relatively flat 1.4 miles with the Lake Ann Trail (another great hike covered in this guide). The routes diverge before a creek crossing, where a sign points right (southwest) across the stream for Lake Ann. Don’t go that way. Instead, follow the less-traveled path straight ahead. Soon after the trail junction, a side trail leads uphill to nowhere; ignore it. Continue to another creek crossing (tricky at high water) and decide if you prefer hopping rocks or balancing on logs. Once across, encounter the steepest part of the trail, a crumbling dirt slope where grabbing an occasional tree root is permissible. Once atop the small hill, parallel a creek rushing in a deep ravine to your left. The ravine becomes shallower along the last 0.8 mile, and you can easily step across the stream near its headwaters. Now enter the remote sanctuary and find yourself at the feet of the Three Apostles, including a thriving, high altitude wetland full of flowers, sedges, and willows. Ahead steep cliffs of rock, ice, and snow rear skyward. If the weather allows, find a fallen log and enjoy lunch before returning to day-to-day reality.

NOTE: The Three Apostles is a technical climb, and how to accomplish this climb is beyond the scope of this book. Ice Mountain (the center Apostle) is a particularly dangerous peak. In summer and fall, most of its precariously balanced loose scree and talus is ready to roll downhill at the slightest touch. In winter and spring, Ice Mountain can release deadly avalanches. Proceed in this area with caution.


If you'd like to learn about the Upper Arkansas River Valley or read more of Purdy's guide, you can pre-order The Best Buena Vista and Salida Hikes here. 

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