Colorado, Colorado 13ers, Colorado Hikes, Colorado Summits

Colorado 13ers: Mount Bancroft, Parry Peak, and Mount Eva

Sometimes, a hike ends up being more laid back than you thought it would be and goes more quickly than you expected. And sometimes, a hike is far more intense than you anticipated and it takes 8 hours to hike 7 miles (11.3 km). This hike was one of the latter.

Chelsea and I set out fairly early for a three-13ers-in-one-day type of adventure. The first of its kind for me, as I’d never before summited three mountains in the same day. But before we could begin climbing mountains, we first had to make it to the trailhead… a task that was also more challenging than we expected.

We were planning to begin our hike at Fall River Reservoir, which is at the end of a 3 mile (5 km) very rough road. I would have taken one look at the many rocks and bumps and assumed it wasn’t possible to get to the trailhead without 4WD and a lot of clearance. But Chelsea is a much more experienced driver than I am on roads like this and, as it turns out, it is possible to get a Subaru all the way to Fall River Reservoir. It was very slow going. But we did it. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘she,’ as I mostly just sat there.

Anyway. We reached the trailhead and set off on our hike. I use the word ‘trailhead’ very loosely… after all, is it technically a trailhead when there isn’t really a trail?

This path from the gate to the trees was really the only thing resembling a trail that we walked on all day

Unlike Colorado’s 14ers, which are climbed regularly by thousands of people, most of the state’s 13ers fly under the radar. As a result, there are often no established trails. Chelsea had a copy of a previous hiker’s route that gave us an approximation of where to go, but the specific details were up to us. Step one was to gain the ridge. So up we went, bushwhacking our way through the forest and doing our best to find the least challenging route. It actually wasn’t too terrible; there wasn’t a ton of underbrush so we didn’t have too much trouble making it through.

Looking down at Fall River Reservoir. The lake in the background is Chinns Reservoir… that’s where we would descend to at the end of our hike

Once we cleared the trees, navigation was much simpler. We still had a lot of climbing to do to reach the ridge… but at least we weren’t bushwhacking anymore. It was a very challenging and slow first mile.

By the time we reached Mount Bancroft’s southeast ridge, the steepest part of the hike was over. We still had a ways to go to reach the summit, though. As we gained elevation we were able to see down into the adjacent valley, home to Loch Lomond Reservoir and Lake Caroline. I’ve hiked to Loch Lomond before, so it was neat to see it from above.

Looking up at Mount Bancroft (right), with the summit of Parry Peak just barely visible left of center
Lake Caroline (left) and Loch Lomond (right)
Looking back toward the foothills and Denver
Chelsea navigates the SE Ridge of Mount Bancroft
Photo by Chelsea

Finally, 4 hours after setting out, we reached 13,250 feet (4040 m) and the summit of Mount Bancroft. Technically, Bancroft is not considered its own mountain; as it rises only about 250 feet (76 m) above the saddle with adjacent Parry Peak, it is instead considered a sub-peak of Parry. I’m choosing to ignore that classification and calling it summit 1 of 3 for the day.

Mount Bancroft summit views
Looking across at James Peak (which I actually ended up summiting about a month later… blog post coming soon!)
Photo by Chelsea
Parry Peak, center, is our next destination; Mount Eva, far left, would be peak #3

From Mount Bancroft we descended to the saddle, staying to the left of the two little bumps to avoid having to climb up and over them. At times there was a vague trail, but route-finding was not difficult. From the lowest point of the saddle, it was just shy of 400 feet (122 m) up to the summit of 13,391 foot (4081 m) Parry Peak.

Beginning the descent from Mount Bancroft
Looking back at Mount Bancroft
Alpine succulent

From Parry Peak, located on the Continental Divide, we could now see west toward Berthoud Pass and Winter Park ski resort. The summit was windy, but a wind block provided us with some shelter. Once out of the wind, it was actually pretty perfect summit weather; sunny and warm, with good visibility and no incoming storm clouds. We hung out here for quite a while.

Parry Peak summit, looking south
Looking northwest from the summit toward Winter Park Ski Resort (left) and the Never Summer Mountains

But we still had one more peak to go, so eventually we built up the motivation for the trek across to 13,130 foot (4002 m) Mount Eva – the lowest of the three summits. As before, there was no trail. We simply descended to the saddle, staying to the west of the ridge. The last few hundred feet to the Mount Eva summit was the rockiest portion of the hike; it slowed us down a little but never exceeded class two.

Mount Eva as seen from Parry Peak
Looking down the valley between Parry and Eva
Looking back at Parry Peak (can you spot Chelsea?)

The summit of Mount Eva is home to a radio tower that has collapsed, presumably due to wind. Winter winds in the Colorado Rockies can be absurdly strong. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to wrap my head around wind being so strong that it can uproot a large metal and concrete structure.

Mount Eva summit and tower
Mount Eva summit, looking east
Mount Eva summit, looking south

From Mount Eva, it was time to begin the descent. I think it was here that we realized this hike was going to take us far longer than we anticipated. The entire descent was off-trail as well; we dropped down the south ridge of Mount Eva toward the saddle, staying above what appeared to be a steep rocky section (which turned out to not be so steep after all) and aiming for the grassier terrain. We cut somewhat of a diagonal path down into the basin, heading for the opposite side which would allow us to avoid the large collection of willows.

Down we go (photo by Chelsea)
Walking along the willows (photo by Chelsea)
Looking back at Mount Eva (right)

Our target was Upper Chinns Reservoir, also known as Sherwin Lake. We could see it off in the distance and aimed for it as best we could, but it was surrounded by trees which meant more bushwhacking. Once we were in the trees, it was more difficult to maintain a straight path. We also had lots of rock outcroppings to navigate. In a couple spots it took a little bit of trial and error to find the best way through. But eventually the water came into view through the trees and we reached the shoreline.

Into the trees we go…

The water level was extremely low, which worked to our favor because we were able to walk along the shore rather than find our way through more trees. From the opposite side of the reservoir we caught up with Chinns Lake Road, following it around Lower Chinns Reservoir.

Upper Chinns Lake
Lower Chinns Lake (Mount Eva, center, and Parry Peak, right)

But we weren’t quite done, as we’d parked at Fall River Reservoir which was down the hill to the north. And no, there’s not a trail between the two. We did find a very vague path through the trees, which was a welcome sight; we were beyond tired of bushwhacking.

Fall River Reservoir

And finally, eight hours after departing and thoroughly exhausted, we arrived back at the car.

The three summits, as seen from Winter Park two weeks later; it was fun to look up and see where we’d been (photo taken with the Peakfinder app)

The Important Stuff

  • Getting there: we began our hike at Fall River Reservoir, located at the end of Fall River Road near Alice, Colorado; at minimum, you need a Subaru to reach the reservoir. High clearance 4WD with larger tires would make for a quicker and less bumpy drive
  • Fees and passes: none
  • Hiking: we were essentially off-trail and route finding for this entire hike; for us it was 7 miles (11.3 km) roundtrip with 3260 feet (995 m) elevation gain, but exact distances will vary depending on your chosen route
  • Where to stay: the trailhead is close enough to Denver for this to be a day trip; however, numerous (very popular) dispersed campsites exist around Fall River and Chinns Reservoirs for those looking to make it an overnight trip. Beware that there is a lot of private property in the area; failure to obey ‘no camping’ and ‘no parking’ signs will result in a hefty fine
  • Other: we were above tree line for over 6 hours on this hike. I wouldn’t have attempted it earlier in the season when thunderstorm risk is higher due to the lack of shelter and relatively few options for bailing out early if a storm rolled in. Late September was a good time of year for this one; no snow yet but also no storms

37 thoughts on “Colorado 13ers: Mount Bancroft, Parry Peak, and Mount Eva”

  1. Wow, what a fun-filled day! I’ve been on a few hikes that turned out to be much longer than initially anticipated, and while my legs were sore for a few days after, I was proud of myself for completing them. The views looking down at Fall River Reservoir are truly stunning and so is the beautiful landscape. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow this is so much to do in one day. I’ve had a few hikes that turned out to be wayyy longer than expected – but then even more pride in achieving them 🙂 As always, your photos are stunning. Have a lovely day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I hike, I also ignore the prominence between peaks. A mountain is a mountain. For someone like me, three peaks at that elevation would be difficult since I am not acclimated to the elevation. I can hike many miles a day in the White Mountains with no problem. I was going to to a traverse in the San Juan mountains in Colorado with my brother-in-law, who works at Mesa Verdi, a couple of years ago but a storm came in and canceled our plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Superb walking all on one day. Some lovely views along the valleys from the route. I always find the route down at the end of a long walk can be tough and feel longer than it should. Always makes reaching the car far more satisfying when you get there though

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That sounds like quite the adventure (and a lot of bushwhacking). Happy to hear that you reached all three summits and that you didn’t have to hike back in the dark. Even though your hike took longer than expected, sounds like you had fabulous weather.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great views and such clear skies! Well done on climbing all three summits in one day. I love the different textures in the photos, the stark contrasts between the sky and the terrain. And that little succulent providing a much needed splash of colour.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If you need any support for your assertion that Mt Bancroft is a legitimate summit after what you accomplished, I’m prepared to write the Governor and lobby the Denver Group of the Colorado Mountain Club to reinforce your premise.

    That said, I’m sure that the satisfaction you got from this day’s activity is all you need!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s kind of nice, actually, when you can do multiple summits in a day like this because we only had to climb all the way up there once. Then it was just a matter of some minors ups and downs to get to each mountain. It did take me a while to get acclimated to the elevation though so that I was capable of doing multiple summits in a day like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You had EXCELLENT visibility during that day of hiking! Unfortunately, hikes can be a hit-or-miss with visibility, depending on the weather and time of day. Those peaks look like no joke, as I can’t imagine scaling along their ridges…it’s almost super-human that you managed to tackle THREE of them in one day! Hope you had a nice bath (and glass of beer) afterwards as your reward!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we were lucky. With all the forest fires in the summer, we have a lot of days that are smoky with such little visibility (not to mention unhealthy air for hiking in general). When you’re up close, the mountains look a lot less intimidating… it’s just walking through the tundra and occasionally over some rocks, safely away from the edge of the ridge. But from far away it can look like an impossible challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

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