ElevationAscent: 4,410' 1,344 m
Descent: -4,410' -1,344 m
High: 14,405' 4,391 m
Low: 10,063' 3,067 m
GradeAvg Grade: 19% (11°)
Max Grade: 118% (50°)
Current trail conditions
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“The highest mountain in Colorado is also one of the easiest 14ers.”— Tyler Prince
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.
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).
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