Peak(s):  Kennedy, Mt  -  13,125 feet
Date Posted:  06/28/2013
Date Climbed:   06/22/2013
Author:  Eph 2 5
 Mount Kennedy -west ridge   

Continuing my hiking strategy of only doing hikes that have great views, I headed to Lime Mesa, northeast of Durango. This hike did not disappoint. I ended up hiking Mount Kennedy and went to the bump just to the west of the Aztec Mountain summit. The views of Pigeon and Chicago Basin were great. I haven't been to Chicago Basin since 2007, but I remember when I was there wondering what was to the south of the Basin. I was eager to explore this area and take a peek into Chicago Basin and see Windom Peak, one of my favorite summits, from this vantage point.

Pigeon from near the base of Mt. Kennedy's west ridge

Chicago Basin from near Mt. Kennedy

Twin Thumbs/Twin Lakes area

Jagged (background) Sunlight, Windom

It took me 9 hours to drive to my car-camping spot. The last 20+ miles on dirt roads only took 1 1/4 hr. to drive. I was expecting 2 hours, but Missionary Ridge Road was in great shape. From Molas and Coal Bank Pass' I continued south to the town of Trimble where I turned east. When the road ended in a T-intersection I turned left (north). I went a couple miles north and passed a dirt road with a sign that said "Rd. 253". After continuing on a little ways, I realized that the road signed Rd. 253 must turn into Road 682, Missionary Ridge Rd. I went back to Rd. 253 and turned onto it. Eventually, there was a sign that said Rd. 682. I followed this road (I think roughly 19 miles) to the Henderson Lake Road where I turned right. The Henderson Lake Road was slightly rougher, but not 4WD. I passed 5 or 6 camping spots along the Henderson Lake Road. I followed Henderson Lake Road 3.1 miles where I found a camping spot. The road got rougher at this point and I didn't want to drive it. After walking it, I would say it was fairly easy 4WD (at least to the point where I left it - it continues on a couple miles to an upper trailhead).
I started from my car-camping spot at 5:15 a.m. the next morning and followed the road north roughly 1/2 mile to a major switchback back to the south. This big switchback occured a little past a small switchback. There is a small sign on the north side of the major switchback. It's not a trailhead sign, but indicates what kind of travel is allowed past the sign. You can barely see the sign in the left part of this picture.


The picture above shows where I left the road. The route starts out on what looks like an old road bed that parallels the high western bluffs of Lime Mesa. Shortly after the sign there begins a dropoff of 10' or so on the left side while the trail/road stays on the higher bench to the right side of this dropoff. A rock wall forms at the western edge of the higher bench. After roughly 10 minutes of walking the road comes to an end and the rock wall and lower bench make a turn to the left. At this point I turned left, staying on the upper bench.

Make slight turn to the left then continue north

Soon I could see a trail on the lower bench. When the rock wall had an area that was easy to descend I went down to the lower bench and started hiking on the trail. I followed the trail all the way until I was as far north as the north edge of Lime Mesa. At this point I kept losing the trail, but I started heading northeast until I was roughly north of the Mesa. I ran into a double-track trail heading northwest. It was pretty faint and I wasn't sure it was the trail I was looking for so I kept heading east. I started to get a little east of the northern end of the Mesa before I guessed that the faint double-track was the trail I wanted. I headed back northwest and intercepted that trail. The trail got stronger and was easy to follow northwest and then northeast until it entered a basin below 2 ridges (one to the north and one to the east).

Did I mention the trail got stronger?

Trail split

At this point (see picture above)there was a fork in the trail with a faint trail heading east and another stronger trail heading north. The trail heading east was very faint. This turned out to be the trail that headed where I wanted to go, but I went north to get to the ridge so I could get a view of Pigeon and Turret. My pictures are washed out, but it was an incredible view,especially with the early morning light on those peaks.

Pigeon from first saddle

I apologize in advance for the next paragraph. It's probably hard to follow, but I have some GPS points I hope to add to this report to help make more sense of these directions.
I started heading southeast to get back to the trail I should have taken. However I detoured back uphill to the northeast to the bump to the east of the saddle where I had just been. The views were great from this point as well. I headed east off the top and although it was pretty steep I got back down to where the main trail was. The trail turns northeast at this point and another trail branches off and descends, I think, to Emerald Lake. I stayed on the main trail until it died out or, otherwise, I lost it. I kept heading northeast staying to the right of a ridge that aims toward Mount Kennedy. At one point I had to descend a small, but easy cliff band. At approximately this point there's another fairly prominent bump on the ridge that has a bunch of talus on its south and southwest sides. I skirted this on the southeast side. At this point the route to Mount Kennedy was obvious. I started heading more northerly and ascended to the base of Kennedy's west ridge. The views of Pigeon and Turret as well as the Chicago Basin 14ers from there were stunning. I turned east following Kennedy's western slope, trying to stay as close to the ridge as possible to continue to look into Chicago Basin. After making it to the western, lower summit of Kennedy I descended to the saddle between the 2 summits of Kennedy and then ascended the eastern, true summit of Kennedy. I then descended off Kennedy down some steep terrain (2+) and made my way to the saddle between Kennedy and Aztec Mountain. I started up Aztec's west ridge and made it to a bump on the ridge just to the west of the true summit. At this point I turned around because the ridge leading to the summit looked a little rough and time consuming and I wanted to explore the area near Overlook Point before my day was done.

Aztec from the west -turnaround point

Looking south from near Aztec's summit

After basically retracing my steps, but skirting Kennedy to the south I made it back to the initial ridge where I first had the great view of Pigeon. I headed west from here towards Pt. 12,802. The views of Pigeon and Turret from Pt. 12,802 were great and there was also a sweeping view into Chicago Basin in addition to the huge rock strewn flats to the west of Florida Mountain, Amhearst, etc. At this point I could really see the smoke plume from the West Fork Complex fire.

West Fork fire

I initially wanted to hike up Overlook Point, but I wanted to make it home at a reasonable hour so I started down. At this point some small patches of clouds started blocking the sun from parts of Pigeon and Turret and the peaks to the east of them. This accentuated the contours and spires of these peaks. I couldn't stop taking pictures. I ended up taking roughly 100 pictures and started down 3 times, but each time I started down more clouds came in creating this phenomenon.


Peaks to the east of Pigeon/Turret

Peaks to the east of Pigeon/Turret

zoom-in on Sunlight Spire


Lime Mesa looking south from 12,802

In the above picture you can see a small bluff to the right of Lime Mesa. This is where I started the hike.
Bierstadt this wasn't as I passed only 2 other parties the whole day. I actually would prefer to have a few more people in the vicinity when hiking solo, but it's nice to not be in a conga line too.
The drive was long, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was a great hike with nice views after a short time and some of the best views I've seen once you get onto the ridge south of Chicago Basin.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Comments or Questions

Hiking strategy
06/28/2013 16:42
You do have taste. Thanks for posting this!


06/30/2013 18:40
Wow.....Great report and thanks for the info. I should be doing this hike on the 8th. I can't believe you did all of that driving and hiking in one day!


07/01/2013 01:33
After spending the past week camped in Chicago Basin beneath Mt. Kennedy, I've added it to the list of peaks I want to hike. In looking at the maps, a southern approach looked better than heading up from Chicago Basin; it's nice to see that approach is feasible. Thanks for posting!


Great shots
08/16/2017 00:42
of the Chicago Basin and what the Lime Mesa approach is like!


did this yesterday
11/04/2019 12:44
what a great way to get in there!

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