Hikes in Sawatch Mountain Range
The Sawatch Mountain Range is a dramatic collection of snow-capped peaks located in central Colorado. Awarded as Colorado’s highest and most extensive range, the Sawatch Mountain Range is also home to the state’s tallest-ranked summit being Mount Elbert at 4,401 m. In addition to the range’s glaciated peaks, the area is also characterized by the White River National Forest and the San Isabel National Forest that bound the majestic massifs with lush evergreen and aspen woodlands.
The Sawatch Mountain Range’s long line of summits is home to 15 of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners and an abundance of alpine treks. Though there is no better way to explore the Sawatch Mountain Range than by summit hikes, there are also countless more manageable and equally stunning woodland excursions that often reveal awe-inspiring crystalline lakes or picturesque mountain vistas. Offering technical summit ascents and enchanting forestland strolls, this fantastic mountain range is a must-add to your Colorado adventure bucket list.
20 Incredible Hiking Routes in the Sawatch Mountain Range
- Mount Princeton Trail - The Mount Princeton Trail is a demanding ascent up to the summit of a Collegiate Peak. The sweeping vistas of the Upper Arkansas River Valley, Elk Mountains, and encompassing snow-capped peaks will prove worth the effort.
- North Mount Elbert Hike - Contrary to popular belief, Colorado’s highest peak is one of the more accessible fourteeners in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Though demanding, the North Mount Elbert Hike is more easily manageable than many neighboring fourteeners.
- Turquoise Lake Trail - Turquoise Lake Trail is a family-friendly forestland nature walk around a shimmering blue-hued lake, bounded by impressive snow-dusted summits.
- American Lake Trail - Exhibiting the diversity of the area’s flora and fauna, the American Lake Trail is a stunning hike through the enchanted woodlands up to a crystalline alpine lake flanked by craggy cliffs.
- Mount of the Holy Cross Trail - The Mount of the Holy Cross is one of the Sawatch Mountain Range’s most famous peaks. Etched into the mountainside, the snowfield cross is visible for miles. Though technical, this fourteener ascent is one of our favorites.
- La Plata Peak North Trail - La Plata Peak North Trail is a strenuous, but incredibly scenic adventure up Colorado’s 5th highest peak. Hike amongst marmots and pikas to the summit which reveals panoramic views of the Collegiate Peaks and Mount Elbert.
- Mount Massive Trail - The leading competitor for the highest peak in Colorado, Mount Massive misses the mark by only 4 m. The second tallest summit in the state, this arduous climb is reserved for intrepid adventurers.
- Huron Peak North Trail - Requiring a class 2 scramble up to the peak, the Huron Peak North Trail is a great introductory summit hike. The sweeping alpine views will motivate even the most discouraged hikers to persist.
- Missouri Lakes Trail - Hike up to not one, not two, but several charming alpine lakes nestled in an incredibly scenic mountain basin. Travel through forestlands, alpine tundras, and past quaint cascades up to the shimmering pools.
- Mount Antero Trail - Push your personal limits and summit Mount Antero. Traveling through lodgepole pines, vibrant aspens and luxuriant tundra’s, the scenery along this trek is unparalleled, not to mention the epic mountain vistas from the peak!
- Mount Yale Summit Hike - The Mount Yale Summit Hike is a more accessible and manageable fourteener trek in the Sawatch Mountain Range. From the peak revel in the expansive panoramas of the neighboring snow-capped Collegiate Peaks.
- Baldwin Lakes Trail - Hike, bike, or off-road up to the Baldwin Lakes which are bounded by impressive Sawatch Range summits. This moderately rated alpine adventure is a great way to acclimate to the area’s altitude.
- Mount Elbert East Ridge Trail - The Mount Elbert East Ridge Trail is yet another incredible trail up to the summit of Colorado’s highest peak. Perfect for a winter ascent, the threat of avalanches along this trek is much lesser than that of the other Mount Elbert hikes.
- Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail - Seeking a relaxing meander through an enchanting forest? The Surprise Lake via Cross Creek Trail is a lovely nature walk up to a quaint glittering lake.
- Timberline Lake Trail - The Timberline Lake Trail is a lovely adventure that exhibits the diversity of the Colorado wilderness. Hiking through golden aspen groves and lush evergreen forestlands up to the shimmering alpine lake, this trek is unassumingly picturesque.
- Beaver Lake Trail - Hike past the Beaver Creek Ski Resort before dipping below the timberline and hiking up to the charming lake on the Beaver Lake Trail.
- Mount Shavano Trail - Ascend another Colorado fourteener on the Mount Shavano Trail. This stunning hike exhibits the grandeur of the Sawatch Mountain Range. Revel in the panoramic views of the mountainous wilderness from atop one of the state’s tallest peaks.
- Browns Creek Waterfall Trail - What more could you ask for than a waterfall? The Browns Creek Waterfall Trail delivers a unique Colorado experience. Traveling through lush woodlands and meadows that reveal sights of the snow-capped peaks to a mesmerizing cascade– this hike packs a punch.
- Bartlett Gulch Loop Trail - The Bartlett Gulch Loop Trail is a family-friendly nature walk that exhibits epic views of the shimmering alpine lakes below before delivering hikers beneath the shade of lush aspen groves and towering pines.
- Interlaken Trail - The Interlaken Trail is a stunning shoreline walk along the Twin Lakes. Enjoy the shimmering blue-hued waters that sit in the foreground of dramatic craggy snow-capped peaks.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Sawatch Mountain Range?
The versatility of the Sawatch Mountain Range enables most hiking routes to be trekked year-round! Summer is undoubtedly the busiest time of year for hiking, and most regard the warmer months as the best time to explore the Sawatch Mountain Range. For the most ideal conditions and arguably the best views, head out in July and August when high-altitude trails are mostly cleared of snow, the threat of avalanches has decreased, and the vibrant wildflowers are in bloom. Additionally, summer excursions present awesome backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and aquatic recreation opportunities.
Winter expeditions into the Sawatch Mountain Range are treacherous, but arguably more exciting. The high country provides the possibility of backcountry skiing, mountaineering, snowshoeing, and even cross-country skiing adventures at the sub-alpine level! When exploring the area in the cooler months it is important to be mindful of increasingly dangerous terrain—often snow-cloaked and icy. Additionally, when attempting a summit trek in the winter there is the ever-present threat of avalanches. We recommended only intrepid and experienced adventurers attempt a summit ascent in the winter.
Whether you visit the Sawatch Mountain Range in the summer or winter months we can guarantee breathtaking vistas of the dramatic vaulted peaks and countless opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Sawatch Mountain Range
There is no denying it, the Sawatch Mountain Range is a hiker’s oasis. Though there are countless hiking routes in the region to explore, the range offers more than just impressive summit treks and magnificent alpine views to satisfy all sorts of adventure enthusiasts. Consider mountain biking up the Baldwin Lakes Trail, cross country skiing the Turquoise Lake Trail, or snowshoeing up a snow cloaked peak.
Additionally, other recreational activities include fishing, sightseeing, rock climbing, skiing, and basking in warm hot springs overlooking the snow-capped peaks. Abundant with life in the summer and winter months alike, the crowds that flock to the Sawatch Mountains are a testament to the area’s beauty and boundless adventure pursuits.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Sawatch Mountain Range
Where is the Sawatch Mountain Range?
The Sawatch Mountain Range is located in central Colorado, spanning over 160.9 km from Eagle River to Saguache.
What does Sawatch mean?
The name “Sawatch” is derived from the word “sawup" in the Ute language which means "sand dunes".
Which Mountain Range is Mount Princeton Located?
Mount Princeton is Collegiate Peak located in the Sawatch Mountain Range.
What elevation is Mount Elbert?
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado that sits at an elevation of 4,401 m in the Sawatch Mountain Range.
What Mountain Range is Mount Harvard in?
Mount Harvard is a Collegiate Peak in the Sawatch Mountain Range.
Epic Adventure Tours in Colorado
Unfortunately, we have yet to curate a Sawatch Mountain Range adventure package, but keep an eye out as we are always working on adding more exciting tours to the collection! Until then, we urge you to check out our Colorado Adventure Tours, and more specifically, the Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Tour.
Best Hikes in Sawatch Mountain Range
Mount Princeton Trail
Looking to challenge yourself? The Mount Princeton Trail is a demanding adventure up to the summit of one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners (14ers). Put your stamina to the test as you ascend over 1,000 m to the summit of the Collegiate Peak that sits in the Sawatch Mountain Range. The unparalleled vistas of the encompassing mountains will motivate even the most discouraged hikers to persist and complete their trek.
North Mount Elbert Trail
Get outside of your comfort zone as you trek the North Mount Elbert Hike up to the summit of Colorado’s highest peak. This impressive snow-dusted mountain offers an epic adventure through the high country. Often referred to as the gentle giant, Mount Elbert is ironically not the most technical ascent of the Colorado 14ers, but it may just be the most scenic. If you are seeking a challenge, then we highly recommend the North Mount Elbert Hike—we know you will love it just as much as we do.
Turquoise Lake Trail
Immerse yourself in nature and enjoy sights of the snow-capped Sawatch Mountain Range peaks as you venture the Turquoise Lake Trail. This impressively scenic adventure through the high country exhibits the diversity of the Colorado wilderness. Trek along the shores of the alpine lake encircled by lodgepole pines and revel in the views of the craggy summits in the background. This unique experience is a must-add to your Leadville itinerary.
Mount of the Holy Cross Trail
Are you an experienced hiker seeking your next big challenge? Well, look no further! The Mount of the Holy Cross Trail is an incredibly rewarding, but extremely technical ascent up to the summit of a famous Colorado fourteener (14er). With a snowfield cross etched into the southeastern face of the peak, this stunning mountain is one of the most photographed summits in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Go see for yourself, you will be astounded by the unique scene.
La Plata Peak North Trail
Is climbing a Colorado 14er on the top of your adventure bucket list too? If so, the La Plata North Trail is the perfect summit hike that possesses the ideal ratio between strenuity and scenery. Immerse yourself in the high country as you ascend Colorado’s 5th highest peak and let the impeccable vistas of the surrounding mountainous landscape motivate you.
Mount Massive Trail
Ascending a Colorado 14er is at the top of many adventurers’ lists, and the Mount Massive Trail is usually the go-to hike. With an enticing name, this extreme adventure up to the summit of Colorado’s second-highest peak is a fulfilling experience. Requiring an intrepid spirit, this challenging adventure demands endurance and persistence, so make sure you are prepared!
Huron Peak North Trail
The Huron Peak North Trail is an epic adventure up to the summit of a Colorado fourteener (14er) in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Immerse yourself in the mountainous landscape and revel in the vistas of the neighboring snow-capped peaks. Perfect for an introductory hike to 14er ascents, the Huron Peak North Trail is easy to navigate and only requires a Class 2 scramble up to the summit.
Missouri Lakes Trail
The Missouri Lakes Trail is a stunning adventure in the Holy Cross Wilderness that exhibits the diversity and beauty of Colorado’s Sawatch Mountain Range. This wonderful adventure travels through dense pine woodlands before revealing a postcard-worthy mountain basin laden with alpine lakes. This expedition is a must-add to your Colorado adventure bucket list.
Mount Antero Trail
The Mount Antero Trail is a demanding but rewarding adventure up one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners (14ers). Shared with courageous 4x4 drivers, the initial segment of the hike treks along one of the highest roads in the United States. This epic summit expedition necessitates an adventurous spirit and stamina. We love this exciting excursion and we know you will too—this hike is a must add to your Colorado adventure bucket list.
Mount Yale Summit Hike
The Mount Yale Summit Hike is an amazing expedition up to the summit of a Colorado fourteener (14er). Located in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, this hike is a picturesque adventure that exhibits the diversity and beauty of the Colorado wilderness. Perfect as an introductory ascent to 14ers, the Mount Yale Summit Hike has the ideal ratio between strenuity and scenery.
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