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Black Cloud Trail

Difficult
 4.2 (18) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Enjoy the incredible scenery along The Black Cloud Trail, all the way to the summit of Mt. Elbert.


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Map Key

10.9

Miles

17.5

KM

Out and Back

14,387' 4,385 m

High

9,716' 2,961 m

Low

5,023' 1,531 m

Up

5,023' 1,531 m

Down

18%

Avg Grade (10°)

73%

Max Grade (36°)

Dogs Unknown

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

Overview

The southernmost trail up Mt Elbert is the Black Cloud Trail and is certainly one of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on. I can't recommend it enough. Even on a Saturday I only encountered two people on the way up. The wildflowers, views of the Sawatch Range to the south, streams, solitude, and varied landscape all make this a special hike.

Description

The trailhead is especially difficult to find and easy to miss. The trail starts in pine forest and aspen groves while climbing steep switchbacks along Black Cloud Creek for about 1.7 miles and 1,700'. The route is very scenic with views of waterfalls, cascading streams, pine, aspen forests, and beautiful clearings.

Eventually the trail flattens out a little at around 11,700' before it steeply switchbacks to gain Mt Elbert's southern ridge. Once on the ridge 2.7 miles in, head north for the highest point, which is unofficially South Elbert (14,134), which is not an official 14er because the saddle between it and Mt Elbert does not provide sufficient prominence.

From South Elbert, follow the ridge northwest until you descend into the saddle. There is a faint trail crossing the saddle across the south ridge of Mt. Elbert, keeping to the right. After traversing the ridge you'll be on the summit of Mt. Elbert.

Contacts

Shared By:

Mike Langenkamp

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 18 votes

#2

in Twin Lakes

#871

Overall
  4.2 from 18 votes
5 Star
44%
4 Star
44%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
11%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in Twin Lakes

#168

in Colorado

#871

Overall
322 Views Last Month
7,179 Since Mar 4, 2015
Difficult

0%
0%
11%
0%
84%
5%

Photos

A lone hiker enjoys the solitude and fall colors on the south approach to Mount Elbert.
Feb 7, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
La Plata peaks above the ridgeline on the Black Cloud Trail.
Apr 22, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
Looking back down the valley towards La Plata Peak
Feb 8, 2018 near Leadvil…, CO
Below tree line looks exactly like this!
Dec 12, 2019 near Leadvil…, CO
View of La Plata peak from the Black Cloud Trail
Mar 4, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
View from the Black Cloud Trail on the way to Mt Elbert summit. LaPlata Peak in the distance.
Feb 16, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO

Weather


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Check-Ins

Aug 21, 2019
Nathaniel Patty
A fun hike when it's all said and done. Not for the faint of heart who don't want to push through non-stop elevation gain for 2/3s of it. 11.7mi — 8h 48m
Jul 17, 2019
Bradford Wherry
6h 19m
Jun 3, 2019
Josh Spencer
Aug 19, 2018
David Orner
Only did up to the South peak 10mi
Aug 4, 2018
Paul Hanyzewski
Jul 31, 2018
Jordan Frdnmkr
Insane amount of elevation gain and loss over the course of the hike. Exceptionally beautiful. 16mi
Jun 19, 2018
Cory Spencer
Im tired 12mi
Aug 26, 2017
Mike McGuire
Ran back for camera early on, 40+ min at peak, fantastic views throughout hike, longer route/significant elevation but worth the challenge in the end 11.4mi