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Mt. Massive

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 4.1 (15) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A steep but quick hike up Colorado's second highest peak.


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Map Key

7.3

Miles

11.8

KM

Loop

14,395' 4,388 m

High

10,538' 3,212 m

Low

3,857' 1,176 m

Up

3,857' 1,175 m

Down

20%

Avg Grade (11°)

70%

Max Grade (35°)

Dogs Leashed

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

This trailhead is generally closed in the winter, with the closest parking 8 miles below.

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

Overview

This steep route allows hikers to cut 5 miles and many hours off of a Mt. Massive summit. While nontechnical, the Southwest Slopes route is without a doubt one of the steepest class 1 routes up any Colorado mountain.

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 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.

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! Pass the North Mt. Elbert Trailhead in about 5 miles and continue onwards. Pass the Mt. Massive Trail on the right in another 0.3 miles. From here, a 2WD car might suffice, but 4WD or at least high clearance is recommended. Drive 2 miles on a narrow, bumpy road before coming to a junction with 110J. Stay straight, and drive another 0.5 miles up steep road before coming to a small trailhead on the right.

Start up North Halfmoon Lakes Trail on an excellent, gradual trail with few rocks or roots. In about 1.5 miles weave along the creek to your left and through some willows before coming to a junction with the Mt. Massive/North Halfmoon Trail. Turn right and hike up some steep rocks and out of the trees at 11,300 ft.

Head to the right through the boulder field and continue up a steep but excellent dirt trail, coming to a second boulder field around 11,700 ft. The trail here becomes harder to follow. Again, stay to the right, this time exiting at about 12,000 ft. Turn left around a large rock pile at 12,300, continuing up excellent trail. At 12,900 ft the grade becomes extremely steep as you continue along a set of switchbacks.

From here the trail becomes rocky as well. Stay to the left to avoid climbing one of Massive's offshoot summits instead of its highest point. Come to a notch at 14,000 ft, staying just to the right of the rocks making up the summit ridge. Continue up Mt. Massive Trail along the rocky ridge, traversing the various points and false summits of the massif. After a short class 2+ scramble along an obvious summit ridge, the incline flattens out. Walk along a rocky path until you finally reach the summit. Your last 0.5 miles will be above 14,000 ft.

Many hikers may feel they're cheating unless they also summit South Massive, North Massive, and Massive Green. This makes for a long day, so if you're one of these gluttons for punishment, be prepared!

Flora & Fauna

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

History & Background

Mt. Massive, the second highest peak in Colorado, also has the most summits of any 14er. The "Massive Massif" boasts underlying summits South Massive, North Massive, and Massive Green. It has more area above 14,000 ft than any other Colorado 14er, second only to Mt. Rainier in the lower 48 states.

During the Great Depression some rather zealous surveyors got into it over whether Mt. Massive or Mt. Elbert was the highest peak in the state. This led Mt. Massive supporters to start building tall cairns on the summit, only for Mt. Elbert proponents to promptly demolish them.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 15 votes

#1997

Overall
  4.1 from 15 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#275

in Colorado

#1,997

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11,048 Since Mar 4, 2015
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Photos

View from Mt. Massive's summit on a summer day.
Mar 5, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
A view of the Massive massif from Mt. Massive Trail.
Mar 5, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
A hiker scrambles on some Sawatch rock on a cold winter day.
Mar 5, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
Approximate crash site of US Army Black Hawk on August 19, 2009.
Jul 20, 2020 near Leadvil…, CO
Trail profile at N. Halfmoon trailhead
Aug 28, 2019 near Leadvil…, CO

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Check-Ins

Jul 18, 2020
Josh B
Jul 10, 2020
Cynthia B.
Jul 3, 2020
Alethea Chiappone
Oct 12, 2019
Michael Garcia
Aug 24, 2019
Matthew Strunk
Aug 13, 2019
Rachel Pisula
With Stephen. Started around 5am I believe. Some avalanche debris. 7.3mi — 7h 00m
Aug 4, 2019
Emily Leland KH
Aug 2, 2019
Evan Redd
Amazing views — 6h 00m