3 Days, 3 Summits, 3 Sunrises

Sunrise from the summit of three of the most picturesque 14,000+ foot Colorado Rocky Mountain Peaks in three days: Mount Princeton, Handies Peak, and Uncompahgre Peak.

Hayden Boyle


Big Sandy Lake Flickr Creative Commons

by Rick McCharles

Creative Commons: Attribution
Lonesome Lake Flickr Creative Commons

by Rick McCharles

Creative Commons: Attribution
Pingora Peak Flickr Creative Commons

by Rick McCharles

Creative Commons: Attribution
Cirque of the Towers Flickr Creative Commons

by Andrew M.

Creative Commons: Attribution

by Hayden Boyle

Creative Commons: Attribution

by Hayden Boyle

Creative Commons: Attribution

by Hayden Boyle

Creative Commons: Attribution


As a high alpine landscape photographer based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, sunrise from the summit of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks presents the most unique and stunning imagery in the area.

This guidebook provides an example timeline following my routes to summit Mount Princeton, Handies Peak, and Uncompahgre Peak, each for sunrise, one after another! If you are good at napping, or don’t mind sacrificing a little sleep in leu of seeing sights that many can never imagine, this is the trip for you!

The long weekend beings with summiting Mount Princeton for sunrise via the traditional East Slopes Route. To reach the upper trailhead requires 4X4. If parking at the lower, it is much more mileage, but still doable! From Denver, the lower trailhead of Mount Princeton is approximately 2.5 hours, giving plenty time to drive up after work and catch a cat nap. The approach began at 1:15 a.m. from the very upper trailhead, and summit time was 3:45 a.m., about 2 hours early. The milky way was vibrant, and the sunrise was unbelievably gorgeous. Time to head to Handies!

For Handies Peak, this guidebook follows the traditional Southwest Slopes Route from the American Basin Trailhead. This road requires 4X4 and includes some fun creek crossings! From the Mount Princeton trailhead, it is about 4.5 hours. After some pitstops and a nap after Princeton, there is plenty of time available to reach the trailhead about 7:30 p.m. to watch sunset over American Peak from American Basin. The next morning began at 3:00 a.m., with a summit at 5:30 a.m. The warmth of the slowly rising sun attempting to punch through dense clouds was unforgettable. Next up, Uncompahgre Peak!

After Handies, there is plenty of time to enjoy the area, summit Sunshine and Redcloud during the day (if you dare) and catch a drink and a bite to eat in Lake City. Very cool town! The Uncompahgre trailhead is about 30 minutes from Lake City. Although short mileage, the road requires 4x4 and is rough. The climb for Uncompahgre started at 1:00 a.m. Hiking under a new moon with clear skies presented an incredibly beautiful night sky. The milky spanned the entire sky, and the big dipper felt so close you could pluck it out. Summit was at 5:30 a.m., just in time for the best sunrise in the high alpine imaginable.
Included in this guidebook are the routes for each trek. Use it as an example, a schedule, or any other creative adventure you decide to come up with.

As with any routes, do your research, know the area, study the topography, and be safe! Images from these sunrise summits are available on my website linked to my profile on FATMAP. From my perspective, this was the best long weekend of 14ers I have ever had! Enjoy!


Handies Peak

Traditional Southwest Slopes route to the Summit of Handies Peak.

Cirque of the Towers

High alpine basin rimmed by huge granite spires in Wyoming's remote Wind River Range.