Hiking Project Logo

Mt. Elbert

Difficult
 4.4 (80) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

The highest mountain in Colorado is also one of the easiest 14ers.


Your Rating:      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add to Favorites · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

8.9

Miles

14.4

KM

Loop

14,405' 4,391 m

High

10,063' 3,067 m

Low

4,410' 1,344 m

Up

4,410' 1,344 m

Down

19%

Avg Grade (11°)

118%

Max Grade (50°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Mt. Elbert's Northeast Ridge - the route described here - is an easily accessible standard route. It's hard to believe getting to the highest point in Colorado requires so little effort relative to that necessary to summit other 14ers.

Need to Know

While an easy 14er, this is still a long hike. Be ready to spend the better part of the day on the mountain, and bring plenty of water. During monsoon season, make sure you're off the summit by noon at the latest. With a solid 2.5 miles above treeline, it's a long way to cover if you get stuck in a storm.

Average hikers should allow about 6 hrs. round trip.

Note: Even though land management says dogs are to be leashed, you'll see many dogs and few leashes.

Description

Using any 2WD car, drive south on 24 out of Leadville. Just as you're leaving town, turn right onto WB Colorado 300. Drive 0.8 miles and turn left onto County Road 11; there should be signs for Halfmoon Creek. In another 1.2 miles turn right onto a dirt road, following signs to Halfmoon Creek. This TH is accessible to any car, but the dirt road does have some potholes and sharp turns, so pay attention! The North Mt. Elbert TH will be on the left in about 5 miles. It is well-marked, but the parking lot overflows onto the road on busy summer days. There is a latrine in the lot.

From North Elbert Trailhead, start up a clearly marked trail through the trees. In a few hundred yards you'll come to a trail junction. Stay left, and then cross a small creek on a sturdy footbridge. Continue on an excellent and very clear trail, passing the ruins of an old shack. The trail flattens out around 10,600 ft, after which you must descend, painful though it may be, a mere 200 ft before reaching a second junction. Stay off the Colorado Trail, heading to the right. (Note: there are really only two ways to get lost on this hike, and they both involve the Colorado Trail. There are two junctions: stay left, and then stay right.)

Continue up the stellar trail for 1.7 miles from this point, passing a clearing at 11,600' and finally coming to tree line at 11,900 ft. From this point on you'll be in the sun and/or wind, so this is a good time to stop and take a break if you need it. Lather on the sunscreen and prepare for the grade to crank up.

The trail switchbacks up a steep yet reasonable grade, made a fair deal easier by the Colorado Fourteener Initiative's initiative to put in log and stone steps. Near 12,700 ft the ridge will crest, flattening briefly while you pass an alpine pond. The trail is very easy to see from this point, although the summit is not. Be ready for at least a little annoyance - Mt. Elbert boasts not one, not two, but three false summits, the first of which is preceded by the crux of the route, a steep and rocky pitch from about 13,400' to 13,900'.

Once past the steeps, you're not far. Continue up on a rocky trail, which only becomes clearer as you ascend. Pass two more false summits before the real summit finally comes into view at around 14,300 ft. Continue over a mere 100 vertical to attain the summit and become the highest person in Colorado (well, at least in terms of altitude).

Flora & Fauna

Upon breaking through coniferous forest you'll find yourself among wildflowers and overly friendly marmots.

History & Background

Colorado's highest peak, Mt. Elbert is the second highest in the lower 48. Given the lower traffic and requisite permits to climb Mt. Whitney, and the technical difficulty of summiting many of Alaska's highest mountains, there is a good chance that a hiker standing on the summit of Elbert is the highest person in America!

Contacts

Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 80 votes

#1

in Leadville

#33

Overall
  4.4 from 80 votes
5 Star
56%
4 Star
31%
3 Star
13%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Leadville

#13

in Colorado

#33

Overall
2,542 Views Last Month
35,623 Since Feb 21, 2015
Difficult

1%
0%
21%
3%
74%
1%

Photos

The final cairn!
Dec 12, 2019 near Leadvil…, CO
Approximately 13,800' up, less than a mile from the summit!
Dec 9, 2019 near Leadvil…, CO
Panorama of summit.
Jul 10, 2016 near Leadvil…, CO
Summit view, Mt Elbert Colorado
Feb 16, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
North Mount Elbert Trail
Aug 8, 2019 near Leadvil…, CO
Top of Mount Elbert Looking at Mount Massive
Aug 16, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 27 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In

Check-Ins

Jul 17, 2020
Jared C
Jul 2, 2020
Pete McWilliams
Don't underestimate this difficult hike, but if you can handle it, it's worth the effort. 9.3mi — 6h 45m
Jun 28, 2020
Jeff Hauptschein
11.1mi — 6h 00m
Jun 21, 2020
Josh B
Jun 13, 2020
Jessica Luty
Oct 1, 2019
Sophie Roney
Started at 5am. Many false peaks! Totally worth it. Great reception, answered emails on the way back. 10mi — 8h 30m
Sep 20, 2019
Josh B
Sep 14, 2019
Michael Drabenstott
Steady incline. Beautiful early fall day for a summit. 10mi — 6h 00m