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!
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Route Description for Mount Massive Trail
With a name like Mount Massive, it is pretty evident what you are getting yourself into. Reserved for experienced hikers, the Mount Massive Trail is a high-effort, high-reward type of adventure. Ascending such high altitudes along an exposed peak warrants extreme weather conditions, so wear layers and summit the peak before noon to mitigate the chances of getting caught in a lightning storm. It is also necessary to be acclimated to the area’s elevation before attempting this trek or you will have a rude awakening. Know your boundaries and if you begin you feel altitude sick, listen to your body and return to the trailhead. Pack plenty of water, way more than you anticipate needing—trust us! If it is a blustery day, we highly recommend using the trail GPS to help navigate the snow-dusted trail.
Traveling through Colorado’s high country, hikers will be granted one-of-a-kind vistas of the encompassing snow-dusted craggy peaks that flank the verdant woodlands below. The Mount Massive Trail exhibits the grandeur of the mountainous landscape and the beauty of the Colorado wilderness. With ample time to self-reflect along this lengthy expedition, this trail presents a great opportunity to reconnect with nature. Passing through diverse ecosystems, you will likely be hiking amongst mountain goats, pikas, and marmots! Let the wonderful scenery of flora and fauna, as well as sights of the stunning neighboring peaks, motivate you to persist! Once you summit the peak, the panoramic vistas will prove well worth the effort.
Begin your journey along the Mount Massive Trail from the Colorado Segment 10 Trailhead off Halfmoon Road. Departing from the trailhead, the Colorado Segment 10 Trail will guide hikers northeast through an evergreen forest. Immediately climbing, the gradual grade is manageable, especially beneath the timberline. Follow this path over South Willow Creek and Willow Creek before arriving at an intersection. Here, veer left, and you will be diverted onto the Mount Massive East Slopes Trail. Now trekking west, the path will graduate to the timberline, delivering hikers to the wildflower-dotted alpine tundra.
As you hike through the alpine meadow be sure to keep an eye out for mountain goats, pikas, and overly friendly marmots. This section of the path proves to be the most technical, so take breaks as necessary and let the expansive mountain views motivate you. Carefully navigate a set of steep switchbacks up to a narrow and rocky ridge. As you hike along the ridge, your breath will be taken away by the sights of Mount Massive looming above. Follow the route, trekking through the rock field and ignoring the false summits. The path will divert north, demanding a scramble up a rocky scree to the true summit of Mount Massive.
From atop the second highest peak in Colorado, tired hikers will be granted unparalleled views of the competing Mount Elbert south and distant sights of the Twin Lakes in the southeast. Revel in the panoramic vistas of the snow-capped peaks of the Sawatch Mountain Range and admire the grandeur of Colorado’s mountainous landscape. Rest and rehydrate as you appreciate the scenery before beginning your descent. When you are ready, retrace your footing along the path back to the trailhead, marking the end of your incredible summit adventure.
Mount Massive lives up to its name! Ranked the second highest peak in Colorado, it misses the mark of tying up with Mount Elbert by 4 m! Standing at an elevation of 4,398 m in the Sawatch Mountain Range, Mount Massive is located in the Mount Massive Wilderness of the San Isabel National Forest. The first known ascent of the gigantic mountain was in 1873 during the Hayden Survey of the American West and was so named due to its size and elongated peak with five summits.
Fun Fact: after the Great Depression there was a dispute between the heights of the two highest Colorado peaks when the height difference was thought to only be 2 m. Resulting in upset mountaineers, supporters of Mount Massive began forming huge rock piles on the summit, trying to gain the elevation needed to surpass that of Mount Elbert. This ongoing quarrel led Mount Elbert proponents to climb Mount Massive and destroy the rock piles. This feud caused a loop of rebuilding and destroying the rock pile atop the summit. Only in Colorado, right?
Frequently Asked Questions
What class is Mount Massive?
Mount Massive requires a Class 2 scramble up to the summit.
How tall is Mount Massive?
Mount Massive sits at an elevation of 4,396 m.
Is the Mount Massive Hike difficult?
Yes, ascending over 1,380 m of elevation, the Mount Massive Trail is considered a strenuous hike.
Insider Hints for Mount Massive Trail
- Grab a well-deserved drink at the Two Mile Brewing Company in Leadville after your trek
- This is a lengthy adventure, so set out before dawn to summit the peak before noon—avoiding getting caught in an afternoon storm
- Consider trekking poles to help navigate the steep terrain
- In the fall and winter months, be sure to bring along microspikes
- Pack plenty of water—the elevation and vertiginous terrain will exhaust you
- Bring your camera, this scenic excursion warrants plenty of photo opportunities
Getting to the Mount Massive Trail Trailhead
The Mount Massive Trail is accessed via the Colorado Trail Segment 10 Trailhead off Halfmoon Road.
Mount Massive Trail Elevation Graph
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Mount Massive Trail Reviews
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