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Mt. Elbert Peak - 14,433 ft.

  2nd Highest Peak
  in the Contiguous United States!

Length: Approx. 8.75 miles roundtrip
Highest Peak in Colorado, Great views of Leadville, Twin lakes, Mt. Massive and the intrinsic satisfaction derived from standing on the second highest point in the continental U.S.!
Difficulty Rating: Advanced
Elevation Gain: Approx. 4,700 ft.

The North Mt. Elbert Trail is probably the most popular route up Elbert and is located a short distance from Halfmoon Campground. Drive several miles (about two and three quarters) south from Leadville on U.S. 24 and look for a right turn onto Colorado 300.

After a short distance you will make a left onto County Road 11. After about a mile look for a sign for the Halfmoon Campground. Here you will turn right onto a dirt road and drive for about five miles to the trailhead on the left. There is ample parking and even a restroom at the trailhead!

Above: SCE climber holding our very own  "I Like To Be On Top" T-shirt on the 14,433 ft. peak of Mt. Elbert. Get Your Tee: click here!



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 Below: Early morning, on the road to the trail head - Mt. Elbert Peak rises off in the distance.


Summit County Explorers will acknowledge that this hike is NOT in Summit County but let's face it, when the second highest point in the continental U.S. (14,433 ft.) beckons just south of Leadville, who can resist the temptation to find out what it is like to "be on top"?

The trail is well marked all the way to the summit BUT a 4,700 elevation gain over a distance of more than four miles, some through steep talus, will test your determination and conditioning. Plan on at LEAST a four hour trek to the top - so leave early!


After entering the forest from the trailhead you soon encounter a sign that directs you left onto the Colorado Trail. After following the CT for about a mile and a quarter, another sign directs you right onto the North Mt. Elbert Trail. The trail continues to remain highly visible as you continue to climb through a thick cover of trees.

After another mile or so of steady ascent, you eventually emerge above treeline at about 11,900' above sea level.

It is at this point you will get your first nice glimpse of a false summit on the horizon. At this point, we would like to recommend that you begin to continually remind yourself about how much fun you are having. You still have over two miles and about 2,500' feet of elevation gain to go!

Above:  After a time check at the trailhead, we took a quick peak at the map, and off we go!

Above: Continuing to climb through the first leg of the trail.

Above: You briefly enter a clearing prior to emerging above the treeline, just long enough to catch a glimpse of what is in store for you...

Above: Emerging above treeline (at approx. 11,900 ft. looking back towards Leadville). Still more than a 2 miles and 2,500 vertical feet to the summit!.


You've done the easy part, now the fun begins!  It's a long trek towards the peak. We were hit by pretty strong gusts of wind from this point forward. The wind-chill forced us to stop and gear up with gloves, thin fleece and windbreakers. Also a good place to take a small break and re-hydrate. This mountain will certainly test your will and desire to conquer it's summit.

Around 13,000' the trail gets steeper as you cross to the right of the false summit. Here its a pretty good pull as you scramble up steep talus. (see photo on left.) But this is also a great time to stop to soak in the scenery. This mountain is just plain immense. To your right you'll have great views of Mt. Massive, look behind you and you will see the town of Leadville way off in the distance. You'll also notice that the forest from which you emerged is a long, long way back...

Enough of the sight seeing, we decide to press onward. We are having a ton of fun up here, but we have a summit to conquer!

It's about here your will and desire are challenged for the last time; you may experience a final moment of discouragement at this point where after climbing some steep sections to about 13,900' you still can't see the true summit!!  Here at least, the worst (steepest) is over and you can feel confident that the summit is within your grasp. You can clearly begin to feel the effect of thin air and altitude at this point, but hopefully your body will begin to enjoy small rush of adrenalin as you near the top. No turning back here!

Finally, the summit is ours. Be sure to savor the moments at the top........it is a long slog back!

Above: Its a loooong trek to the summit. Here you are probably at about 12,000ft. Above: continuing onward! And of course, what you see ahead is a false summit!
Above: A SCE hiker pauses for a photo as before continuing to climb up the talus to on the right side of the false summit. You're really looking up here. Above: Incredible views! This is looking out over Mt. Massive as we begin our climb up the right side of the false summit.
Above: It just keeps getting steeper. I take a look back in time to and snap a photo of  Another SCE hiker climbing up out of the talus.

Above: A view back South, looking out over the twin lakes.

Above: The most difficult part is now behind us, but the summit is still not quite in view. Its hiding just up around this bend!

Above: Finally at the top. (14,433ft.) This is looking back South over Lake Turquoise and the town of Leadville.



If you reach the summit, then
 Summit County Explorer's
T-shirt and gear is well deserved. Check it out by clicking the logo above.

Above: On top  the highest peak in Colorado! Not exactly t-shirt weather, its about 36 degrees with strong gusty winds.

Above: I stop to pose with a small American Flag and a sign reading:
 Mt. Elbert / 14,433 ft / Sept. 2004





  beginner intermediate advanced
    Black Powder Pass   Mohawk Lake   Quandary Peak  14,265'
    Lily Pad   Chihuahua Gulch   Lincoln & Bross 14,291' / 14,177'
    St. John's   Mt. Royal   Bierstadt Peak 14,060'
    Mayflower Gulch   Wheeler Lakes   Willow & Salmon Lakes
    Loveland Pass   Radical Hill Trail   Upper Crystal Lake
    Salt Lick Trail   McCullough Gulch   Gray's & Torrey's 14,278' / 14,267'
    Mesa Cortina Trail   Mt. Sniktau   Mt. Democrat 14,152'
    St. Mary's Glacier   North Ten Mile Trail   Mt. Victoria
    Sally Barber Mine   Willow Falls  

Mt. Elbert  14,433'

    Oro Grande Trail   Eaglesmere Lakes   Buffalo Mountain  12,777'
    Meadow Creek-Salt Lick   Mosquito Pass   Eccles Pass
    Shrine Mountain Trail   Webster Pass   Mt. Huron  14,003'
    Ptarmigan Trail   Ptarmigan via Wilder Gulch    
    Peaks Tr. Barton Gulch   Wheeler Lake - Park County    
    Hoosier Pass Loop   Lenawee Trail    


  Spruce Creek Loop   Nightmare on Baldy Mine    
    Tenderfoot Mountain Trail        

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Note: The Summit County Explorer website is for entertainment purposes only. SCE will not be held liable for the any accidents or injuries resulting from the activities listed on this site. Trail conditions change daily and we assume no responsibility for the safety of any individual during any of these activities. Please consult actual trail guides and maps before attempting any of the activities mentioned here.