Mount Audubon (13,223ft.) is a 13er mountain located in Colorado’s Front Range and, more specifically, within the stunning Indian Peaks Wilderness of Roosevelt National Forest. Near Ward, CO and not far from the town of Boulder, Mount Audubon offers an excellent introduction for those interested in high altitude 13er mountain hiking, with fantastic views of the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park, and more.
The standard route to the summit of Mount Audubon is via its North Slope. The route begins at the Mitchell Lake Trailhead and is 4.0 miles to the summit (8.0 miles roundtrip, approximately 2,700ft. elevation gain). The vast majority of the hike is via an established Class 1 trail, with about a .5 mile of Class 2 boulder and talus scrambling to reach the summit. For those feeling especially ambitious, a popular option is to extend the outing and summit the adjoining Paiute Peak (13,088ft.).
Hike Review Series: Mount Audubon
Mount Audubon, located in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness, is named after American ornithologist John James Audubon of National Audubon Society fame. At an elevation of 13,223ft., Mount Audubon is a very popular alternative to Rocky Mountain National Park trails and Front Range 14er peaks that often see much heavier use. As a moderately challenging 13er, Mount Audubon is a great training hike to prepare for far more strenuous 13er and 14er mountains around Colorado. Indeed, Mount Audubon’s proximity to the Denver/Boulder metro area makes this an appealing early season option with easy access.
The North Slope route to Mount Audubon begins at the Mitchell Lake Trailhead, not far from the Brainard Lake Recreation Area entrance to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The trailhead has a large parking area for about 70 vehicles, but given the close proximity to Denver and Boulder, only early arrivals are likely to secure a parking spot here during peak season.
From the northeast section of the Mitchell Lake Trailhead parking area, the majority Class 1 route to Mount Audubon begins along the Beaver Creek Trail. At about 1.7 miles into the hike, the route veers west onto the Mount Audubon Trail. With about .5 miles remaining toward the Mount Audubon summit, some moderately challenging Class 2 scrambling is required to reach the peak.
Upon reaching the summit of Mount Audubon, the views are expansive and awe-inspiring. To the right of the featured photograph is the view to the west, with Paiute Peak (13,088ft.) on the right, which is a great add-on mountain for those inclined for more adventure. To the center-right is the stunning Mount Toll (12,979ft.).
Provisions and Dining
The town of Nederland, CO is reasonably close to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead. If you plan to stop somewhere for a bite to eat after your hike, you’ll have a few options to choose from. Below are a couple of our recommendations for places to visit.
Recommended Hiking Apparel and Gear
Our favorite guidebook on the area is “Colorado’s Indian Peaks: Classic Hikes and Climbs,” because it is well-written and thoroughly covers the best hikes in Indian Peaks Wilderness. Further, this guidebook was authored by Gerry Roach, who is the leading authority on Colorado’s 14er and 13er hikes. Of course, if you intend to venture into other Colorado wilderness areas beyond Indian Peaks Wilderness, consider a book the covers a wider breadth of area such as “The Complete Guide to Colorado’s Wilderness Areas.” This guidebook is great because it provides excellent information on each wilderness area, including their best hikes and multi-day backcountry outings.
In addition, we recommend bringing along a topographical map of the area, such as the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Alternatively, the Sky Terrain Map, which covers Southern Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness, is another excellent option. Lastly, we included a couple of our favorite field guides for plant and bird identification to aid in the enjoyment of the outdoors.
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