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Hiking & Walking: Colorado > Pike and San Isabel National Forests > Leadville Ranger District

Quick Facts

Mt. Elbert

Beginning Elevation: 9,622 Feet (2999.4 Meters) Lily Ponds
Difficulty: More Difficult
Elevation: 10,600 Feet (3304.2 Meters)
Elevation Gain: 4,811 Feet (1499.7 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 14,433 Feet (4499.1 Meters) summit Mt. Elbert
Length, One-way: 6.0 Miles (10.0 Kilometers)
Other Maps: Trails Illustrated 127 Aspen, Independence Pass
USGS Maps: Mt. Massive, Mt. Elbert

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Mount Elbert is Colorado's highest peak and the second highest peak in the lower 48 states with an elevation of 14,433 feet. It is named for an influential leader in the state, Samuel Elbert.

There are three established trails up Mount Elbert. The South Mount Elbert Trail forks off the Colorado Trail and is accessed near Twin Lakes. The North Mount Elbert Trail also forks off the Colorado Trail and is accessed from Half Moon Campground. Finally, the rarely used Black Cloud Trail is accessed from Highway 82 west of Twin Lakes.

Directions from Leadville: From Leadville travel south on US Hwy 24 to the junction of Colorado Highway 82. Travel west approximately 4 miles to Lake County Road 24. Turn right (north) on Lake County 24 and follow it approximately 1.1 miles to the scenic parking area just north of Lakeview Campground. The South Elbert Trail will follow the Colorado Trail (signs) heading north for 2.3 miles at which point the South Elbert Trail branches to the left (west ) climbing more steeply. The first 1.8 miles of trail can be traveled with a 4WD starting on Forest Road 125.1B just north of the parking area described above.

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: May through September (NOTE: Snow may obstruct the trail at high elevations.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Michael Forster (Silverthorne, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Careful,, guidebooks and trail entry is confusing.---9/08 Where you park, look uphill, turn right onto Colorado trail. About 200 yards up the Colorado trail you will pick up the trail to Mt. Elbert.

Filed By: Eric, Mike, Jeff & Jenn (Denver, Chicago, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: The south trail was like a freeway at rush hour. Lots of people hiking that Friday in mid August 2003. Great views from the top the best place to have lunch. Shared the top with about 20 other folks including 2 that exchanged wedding vows. The minister accompanied them as well.
Conditions: Good overall conditions on a partly cloudy warm day. We encountered a brief spell of clouds and wind but at the top the sun shined and warmed thinks up to about 60 degrees (not bad for 14,400 feet).
Water Availability: We each had at least 2 quarts each. Seemed adequete for me, being from Denver and a bit more acclimated.
Recommended Clothing: We had a first layer top, fleece and a wind breaker. I went from wearing all the items early in the morning and near the top to just the first layer when the sun was shining (even atthe top!!!)
Suggested Accessories: Trail is well maintained and not very rocky. We each had hiking poles which helped more on the way down.

Filed By: Mark Swiatek (Colorado Springs, CO)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Followed So. Mt Elbert Trail yesterday (7 Sep) starting @ 0700. Disappointing trip due to weather
Conditions: Light rain from early AM. Snow above 12500 ft. Recommend winter gear. Many people (incl. myself & partner) were unprepared for snow. Most of us kept going. View at the top was limited due to blizzard-like conditions, even though there was only about 4-6 in on the trail above 13500ft.

Filed By: Keith Livengood (Raleigh, NC)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: We hiked the East Ridge along the Mt. Elbert Trail on 7/22/03. Must have 4wd with high clearance to get up the extra 1.8 miles to trailhead. Steepest part of trail is the first mile. Beautiful views of Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake. On trail at 7:30 with wife and teenage daughter and son. Temperature about 70. Summit at 11:00. Temp. about 50 and windy. Some light sleet. 2 hour walk down.
Conditions: It was a warm sunny day at the trailhead. By the time we reached the summit, it was 50 degrees and windy. A cloud moved in with some light sleet. We saw about 15 people on the trail and met another 15 at the top.
Water Availability: Very little water on the trail. We carried about 2 liters each.
Recommended Clothing: We hiked most of the way in shorts and t shirt. Put on a wind jacket at about 13,000 feet and put on fleece at the summit.
Suggested Accessories: Bring lunch for the summit.

Filed By: Larry
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Great trail. If you have 4wd you can cut off almost 2 miles of the hike, just drive up the road that goes left just after the parking lot. It isn't to bad but you definitely need high clearance and probably need 4wd as well though you might make it w/o 4wd. The trail is great, I thought the first half was actually more difficult, it was pretty steep. The views are great and if you just take you time and are prepared you shouldn't have any problem with the hike up. As of 6-14-03 there was only a little snow left and it was easily crossed. Plus you get a nice slide for the way down. Outstanding views from the top and overall just a great hike. Oh yeah and don't forget to bring warm clothes. I was comfortable in shorts and tee shirt at the bottom, but it is cool and windy at the top. A good fleece jacket and windbreaker should do the job, though you might want more if you get cold easy.
Conditions: Some snow near the top, but not much and it was pretty light covering in most places. Took us about 3 1/2 hours up and 1:45 to get down.
Water Availability: Bring your own. Had about 100oz per person, it was okay, but next time I will bring another liter per person.
Recommended Clothing: Shorts and tshirt on first half, fleece, long pants and windbreaker for the top. A warm hat and gloves might be nice though I didn't have any and it wasn't to bad
Suggested Accessories: No special gear needed. Just remember to wear a hat and use sunscreen or you will get a bad sun burn.

Filed By: David P. Scott (Abilene, Texas)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Reached summit on Aug 1, 1976 with best friend Steve Bridges. Started up on last day of July. Spent the nightr under stars and trees. Snow on peak that night then thunderstorm that afternoon. Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Take your time. have fun and above all take a camera. I have panoramic photos from summit. It was great.

View more Trip Reports.

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Hiking & Walking South Elbert Trail
ICON Horseback Riding South Elbert Trail
ICON Mountain Climbing Mt. Elbert (south route)

Related Activities
Colorado Trail (Halfmoon to Twin Lakes) - This segment of the Colorado Trail begins in the Halfmoon Drainage and continues for approximately 6 miles to the Lakeview Campground above Twin Lakes.

Lakeview Campground - Lakeview Campground is located in the Twin Lakes area, but not immediately on the reservoir. Lakeview is the closest developed campground to the South Mt. Elbert Trailhead.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box P, South US 24 , Buena Vista, CO, 81211, Phone: 719-395-6612


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