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La Plata Peak Out and Back

Intermediate/Difficult
  4.7 ( 13 ) Favorite

Trail

9.4 mile 15.1 kilometer out and back
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 4,276' 1,303 m
Descent: -4,276' -1,303 m
High: 14,323' 4,366 m
Low: 10,125' 3,086 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 17% (10°)
Max Grade: 58% (30°)

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Trail shared by Karl W

This is a beautiful class 1 - 2 route up the 5th highest peak in Colorado.

Karl W

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Colorado highway 82 closes in the winter, making this route inaccessible.

Overview

This is a wonderful path to the fifth highest 14er in the state that will take you over/along mountain brooks, through a forest, and along wildflower filled alpine and to outstanding views, all on a very well made path. There is a small amount of scrambling at the top but nothing more than class two making it a very accessible 14er.

Need to Know

Like all 14er trails in Colorado you'll be above treeline for a long time so wear sunscreen and be very mindful of the weather. Storms typically arrive in the early afternoon so you'll want to get an early start.

Description

The trailhead and parking area for this trail are located on the south side of Colorado 82 about 14.5 miles west of 24. It is just a parking area along the side of the road is it is fairly easy to spot. From here, continue on the 82c forest road south for about a third of a mile. You'll get a nice view of the La Plata ridge from the bridge over the North Fork Lake Creek. Keep an eye out for the trail on the left (eastern) side of 82c. The trail heads east through pine forest while crossing South Fork Lake Creek and a third creek. After the third creek the trail turns back south and starts up La Plata valley staying close to the creek. You'll get some nice views of the cascades in the creek and you continue through the forest steadily gaining elevation.

Eventually you'll exit the forest to get some nice views of the Valley and some of the first views of the summit in a while. The trail begins to move away from the creek towards the southeast and gets a little steeper. The patches of trees continue to thin out until you encounter the first set of switch backs. La Plata trail has a few sets of switch backs that are almost humorous in number - please stay on the trail to prevent erosion of the delicate sub-alpine and alpine ecosystems! This first set of switch backs will quickly take you above tree line so keep this spot in mind for any changing weather. At this point the returns to heading south.

You'll come to another set of switch backs through rocky scree (but on a very nice trail) which take you to - that's right - more switch backs. There are amazing alpine flowers in summer along this whole section and numerous marmots, pika, and ptarmigans. At the top of the last set of switch backs you'll be in the Plata Basin. Continue south along the fairly clear trail.

From the Plata Basin you'll enter the final stretch to the summit which is the rockiest and might require a little use of hands for balance. This is pretty standard for the 14ers in the Sawatch Range and really nothing more than class two from my experience. For the most part the trail winds around any challenging parts - keep an eye for the worn path and cairns. The trail follows the ridge so it would be very difficult to get lost even if you lose the actual trail. Finally you'll reach the summit! Enjoy the amazing views which include Mt Elbert to the north and Mt Harvard to the south.

This is an out-and-back trail so just retrace your steps to get back to the trailhead.

History & Background

La Plata Peak is the fifth highest peak in Colorado at 14,360.

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We need help with the following missing trail information:

Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Flora & Fauna

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Check-Ins

Sep 10, 2019
Rachel Pisula
Took 5 hours up and 3 down, but with lots of breaks. So beautiful! 9.4mi — 8h 00m
Jul 27, 2019
Emily Leland KH
Jul 18, 2019
Michael Thomas
summer conditions, minus a few small snowfields. 10.8 on my GPS, with 4,397 in gain. 10.8mi — 6h 00m
Jul 11, 2019
William Horst
Hiked with CAMPR. Burner. Snowfields created a few minor detours. 11mi — 8h 00m
Jul 5, 2019
James Buchanan
Difficult for lowlanders but worth the effort. Lots of marmots and small flowers/plants. Some snow on trail above trees. Stretches of boulders. Views! 10mi — 9h 30m
Sep 20, 2018
Seth Dayvan
accidentally missed the turnoff from the forest road onto the trail, hence the 13 miles. don’t do that. tough hike, esp. the last mile. steep. 13mi
Aug 30, 2018
Floyd Hartley
Windy up high but beautiful weather. Need to pay attention to route finding as you get high. 9.4mi
Aug 6, 2018
Colin Hensen

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 13 votes

#1

in Twin Lakes

#550

Overall
  4.7 from 13 votes
5 Star
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Featured Hike Rankings

#1

in Twin Lakes

#112

in Colorado

#550

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3,414 Since Oct 12, 2016
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Photos

Sayres Mountain hides behind columbines in the early morning shade.
Feb 18, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
La Plata offers awesome views of Mt. Elbert (center right) and Mt. Massive (1/4 left) on a beautiful, clear day.
Feb 18, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
Beautiful flowers shelter among the rocks near the summit of La Plata.
Feb 18, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
La Plata Peak summit view
Aug 1, 2018 near Leadvil…, CO
The objective is in sight! La Plata Peak Trail passes through some beautiful alpine meadows that are packed with flowers in the summer.
Feb 18, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
La Plata Peak stands prominently in the distance from the bridge over North Fork Lake Creek just after the trailhead.
Feb 18, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO

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