San Isabel National Forest

North Mt. Elbert Trail

North Mt. Elbert Trail Leadville Ranger District
Activity: Hiking
Length: 4 1/2 Miles (7 km.) Approx.
Season: 6/15 to 9/30
Use: Very Heavy
Difficulty: Most Difficult
USGS Map(S): Mt. Elbert , Mt. Massive

Trail Begins:
Trailhead on Halfmoon Creek. Take the Colorado Trail (also known as the Main Range Trail) about one (1) mile south to junction with North Mt. Elbert Trail No. 1484.
Elevation: 10,100 ft. (3085m)

Trail Ends:
Summit of Mt. Elbert Highest point in Colorado.
Elevation: 14,433 ft. (4409m)

Access: Access to the trailhead on Halfmoon Creek beginning from Leadville is as follows: Travel three (3) miles southwest on US Hwy 24 to County Highway 300, then approximately .8 mile west to Forest Road 110. On Forest Road 110 travel south about seven (7) miles to the Trailhead.

The Colorado Trail No. 1776 (Main Range Trail No 1373) and both Mt. Elbert Trails 1376 and 1484 are for foot and horse travel only. Motorized Use Is Prohibited.

Attractions: Mt. Elbert at 14,433 ft. elevation is the highest point in Colorado. It is the second highest mountain in the adjacent 48 states. Samuel H. Elbert (1833-1899) was an outstanding and widely known civic leader in the Territory and State of Colorado. Mt. Elbert, Elbert County, and the town of Elbert, Colorado were all named in his honor. Elbert served as Colorado's Territorial Secretary, Territorial Governor and State Supreme Court Justice. Active in the formulation of mining legislation and reclamation projects, he promoted concepts of conservation and irrigation which were ahead of his time.

Climbing The Peak: Technical ability or special mountain climbing experience is not required to climb Mt. Elbert. Good physical condition is important; however, the ascent and return requires a good full day of strenuous hiking. At this elevation where the air is thin, you will require extra energy.

Stick to the trail. Don't shortcut trail switchbacks as this causes erosion. Take a few extra minutes to pack out whatever you pack in. Better yet, pack out a few pieces of someone else's litter too.

Special Precautions: The cardinal rule of experienced hikers is to turn back if in doubt. You can always make another trip if weather conditions are bad, you started too late, or if someone tires rapidly.

Start your trip early since showers or thunderstorms often occur in the afternoon. These storms build quickly and may bring freezing rain, sleet or snow. Avoid exposed areas, rock pinnacles, outcrops, lone tall trees, and other natural lightning rods. There are no shelters on the peak. Temperatures seldom are above 50 F and often drop below freezing.

Wear proper clothing with special attention to boots and lightweight, warm and waterproof jacket. As a minimum, you should carry a day-pack with lunch, quick energy snacks, water, sunglasses, sunburn lotion, and a small first aid kit. Don't forget your camera!

Snowfields and gullies can be treacherous. Don't slide down these Slopes. The gradient can be deceptive, and you can quickly loose control. The rocks at the bottom are hard. Stick to the known trails. Be sure to advise relatives or friends of your trip, route and schedule. Stay with your party or group. Winter climbing is not advised.

Camping : Campsites are available at Elbert Creek or Halfmoon Campgrounds. Suitable backpacking campsites are not available along the trail route. The campgrounds are accessible to most types of vehicles. However, the very large motor homes, trailers over 22 ft. or highway type busses are not recommended. Forest Road 110 is narrow, gravelled, and rough, so please drive with caution. The road is closed by snow in winter months.

Water : Drinking water is not available once you leave the campgrounds. Carry an adequate supply for your entire hike. Streams and surface water should not be considered safe for drinking without purification.

Special Permit : None.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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