Mount Elbert |

Colorado High Point

Hiking Mount Elbert - Colorado High Point Hiking Mount Elbert

Colorado High Point

Overview

RATING: Strenuous Hike
MAPS: Mount Massive, CO; Mount Elbert, CO;

Sun

Patchy blowing snow. Sunny, with a high near 24. Wind chill values between -10 and zero. Windy, with a west wind 25 to 35 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph.

24 | 8

Mon

Snow showers. Some thunder is also possible.  Widespread blowing snow. High near 24. Very windy, with a west southwest wind around 45 mph, with gusts as high as 70 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

24 | 12

Tue

Snow showers. The snow could be heavy at times.  Widespread blowing snow, mainly before 5pm. High near 18. Very windy, with a west wind 30 to 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 90%.

18 | 10

Wed

Patchy blowing snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 17. Breezy, with a west wind 20 to 25 mph.

17 | -9

Thu

Sunny, with a high near 24. West wind around 15 mph.

24 | 3

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SEASON: Late summer, fall.
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None

Sun

Patchy blowing snow. Sunny, with a high near 24. Wind chill values between -10 and zero. Windy, with a west wind 25 to 35 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph.

24 | 8

Mon

Snow showers. Some thunder is also possible.  Widespread blowing snow. High near 24. Very windy, with a west southwest wind around 45 mph, with gusts as high as 70 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

24 | 12

Tue

Snow showers. The snow could be heavy at times.  Widespread blowing snow, mainly before 5pm. High near 18. Very windy, with a west wind 30 to 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph.  Chance of precipitation is 90%.

18 | 10

Wed

Patchy blowing snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 17. Breezy, with a west wind 20 to 25 mph.

17 | -9

Thu

Sunny, with a high near 24. West wind around 15 mph.

24 | 3

View Full Weather Details
The summit in sight.

The summit in sight.

At 14,440 ft., Mount Elbert is the highest point in Colorado and second highest point in the continental United States. If you are a peak bagger, this is one that has to be high on your list to do! There are a couple of common routes up the peak. Below, the North Ridge is described, the route I took. It is very straight forward, well signed, and accessible to most experienced peak baggers. The two big challenges on Mt Elbert are weather and weather!

The first weather challenge is snow pack. On even an average snow year, the trail can be snowed over well into mid-summer. On heavy snow years, the snow can last into August. Heavy snow on the trail makes it much trickier and will likely slow groups down. Avoid the route until later in the summer unless you have snow experience.

The second weather danger is thunderstorms. Like all peaks, you do not want to be caught up on the peak if afternoon thunderstorms come in. These storms are very common during most of the summer. Be sure to check the forecast and get a sunrise (or earlier) start to try and summit and be back to tree line before any afternoon thunderstorms can build.

History Note: Mount Elbert is named after Samuel Elbert, the Territorial Governor of Colorado in 1873-1874. Samuel Elbert was popular with local miners because he brokered a treaty with the Ute Indians and opened up a vast area for mining.

Mount Elbert is just 12 feet higher than Mount Massive to the north. The slight difference created a rivalry between people that felt Massive was a better high point and purists that liked Mount Elbert. This rivalry grew to the point rocks were stacked on Massive to make it taller than Elbert. In the end, Elbert has stayed the true high point of Colorado.

It is also interesting to note the summit was reached in 1949 by a jeep when the area was being reviewed for a potential ski resort.
Big views from Mount Elbert!

Big views from Mount Elbert!

Getting There

The trailhead is reachable by most vehicles when it is snow free.

From Leadville, CO, go west/south on US-24.

About 3 miles from Leadville, US-24 makes a hard left and begins heading south. Turn onto CO-300 West here.

Just after crossing the river (0.8 miles from US-24), turn left onto Halfmoon Road.

After 1.3 miles, turn right to stay on Halfmoon Road. From this last junction, follow Halfmoon Road an additional 5 miles at it climbs into the mountains. The trailhead is signed on the left, across from the Elbert Creek Campground.

Note: There are several campgrounds before the trailhead that help get setup for an early start. Elbert Creek is the closest (and just across the road), but Halfmoon East and Halfmoon West are also quite close.
View from the top of Colorado.

View from the top of Colorado.

Route

From the trailhead, follow the trail a few minutes to the Continental Divide Trail. Go left on the Continental Divide trail.

The Continental Divide zig-zags up, gaining elevation. About 1.25 miles from the trailhead, the North Ridge Junction is reached. It is signed and fairly obvious. Go right, heading up the North Ridge Trail. It is only about 3.4 miles from the junction to the summit, but the trail steepens and elevation begins taking its toll.

Just before reaching 12,000', the forest opens and you reach treeline. The true summit is not visible yet. Continue the ascent along the rocky ridge. Catch your breath at 13,400', before the route steepens before the final 1000' gain to the summit.

Just before the summit, the South Mount Elbert Trail comes in on the left. Stay right and (more importantly) stay left here on the way down!

The summit offers outstanding views


Maps

Route / 9.36 miles / Elevation Range 10,060 - 14,422 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

13S 377957mE 4334556mN

N39° 09' 06" W106° 24' 45"

Jct - Left

13S 377847mE 4334444mN

N39° 09' 02" W106° 24' 49"

Jct Right

13S 378316mE 4333707mN

N39° 08' 39" W106° 24' 29"

Summit

13S 375083mE 4330866mN

N39° 07' 05" W106° 26' 42"

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