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.
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Route Description for North Mount Elbert Trail
So, you are considering conquering the North Mount Elbert Hike? Let us help! Impressively picturesque and undoubtedly rewarding, a challenging trek such as this demands preparation and stamina. Traveling to such extreme elevations can be difficult, so make sure you are acclimated to the area’s altitude before your hike. Additionally, afternoon storms are common to the area, so we highly recommend heading out before 8 am to reach the exposed peak before noon. Be sure to check the forecast before you leave, and always wear layers as insurance against chilly conditions at the summit. In the fall and winter months, be sure to strap on some microspikes to navigate the snow-packed and likely icy terrain safely. Lastly, pack plenty of water, more than you may anticipate needing because between the elevation and technical terrain, you will be exhausted—but it is worth it, trust us! Note the road to the trailhead is closed to vehicles in the winter months.
Summiting Colorado’s highest peak will surely provoke a sense of personal achievement and fulfillment. The North Mount Elbert Hike is a wonderful trail that exhibits the diversity and beauty of the Colorado wilderness. Explore the alpine tundra as you hike amongst overly friendly marmots and pikas!
Considerably manageable compared to other 14er hikes in the state, the trail up to Mount Elbert attracts several explorers in the summer months with eager adventurers just like yourself. If you are seeking a more secluded expedition, try hiking in the off-season or during the week. Let the panoramic views of Colorado’s mountainous wilderness motivate you as you trek up to the impressive summit.
Embark on your adventure along the North Mount Elbert Hike from the trailhead off Halfmoon Road.
Departing at dawn, you will be in the company of several other intrepid adventurers as you begin your trek along the Colorado Trail Segment 11. Navigate the switchbacks up the forested terrain to a junction. From here, veer right, and you will be diverted onto the Mount Elbert Northeast Ridge Trail. Now hiking through a grove, you will begin a steep ascent above the timberline.
Heading southwest, the now exposed terrain reveals dumbfounding views of the peak looming above. Take a rest, admiring the grandeur of the summit before you begin the most technical segment of the trek. Travel along the winding path, noticing Elbert Creek flowing below on your right. As you near the peak, the route will become increasingly vertiginous and rocky. Carefully navigate the scree, scrambling up the loose terrain to the summit. Once you arrive at the peak, either the epic views or lack of oxygen will take your breath away.
From the highest point in Colorado, you will be granted 360-degree panoramic vistas of the neighboring peaks and high country. Revel in the mountainous landscape, noticing Casco Peak and French Mountain in the east, and Mount Cosgriff across the saddle in the southeast. Distant views of Mount Massive can be seen in the north, and sights of the Twin Lakes below to the southeast. Revel in the expansive vistas from the summit of Mount Elbert and make sure to take plenty of photos; this incredible summit warrants plenty of photo-ops. When you are rehydrated, and you’ve caught your breath, begin your descent. To get back to the trailhead simply retrace your footing along the route.
Mount Elbert is the state of Colorado’s highest peak and the 14th ranked peak in the United States. Standing at 4,389 m, this impressive peak sits at the top of the Colorado fourteeners (14ers) list. The highest point in Colorado and the American Rockies, Mount Elbert is an adventurer’s oasis in the Sawatch Mountain Range. Known for its unparalleled vistas of the mountainous countryside and false summits, Mount Elbert summit hikes are on the top of many intrepid explorers’ bucket lists.
Mount Elbert was named in honor of a Colorado statesman, Samuel Hitt Elbert, who was active in the formative period of the state and Governor from 1873 to 1874. Though the tallest peak in Colorado, it is often referred to as the gentle giant. With a gradual ascent and a class 2 scramble, the highest point in the Rocky Mountains is more accessible than shorter summits such as Capitol Peak and Little Bear Peak. If you are looking for a demanding but rewarding hike, we highly suggest adding the North Mount Elbert Trail to your Colorado adventure list.
Frequently Asked Questions
How difficult is the North Mount Elbert Hike?
The North Mount Elbert Hike is a technical and strenuous adventure recommended for experienced hikers.
Can beginners hike Mount Elbert?
Technically, beginners can hike Mount Elbert, but many do not make it to the summit due to altitude sickness and exhaustion. If you are a beginner, make sure to head out before dawn and consider bringing oxygen if you are not acclimated to the area’s elevation.
Are dogs allowed on Mount Elbert?
Yes, dogs on-leash are permitted on Mount Elbert, though it is not recommended. The high altitude and rough terrain have proven difficult for many pups to handle.
Insider Hints for North Mount Elbert Trail
- Consider heading out before 8 am to try and make it to the summit before a nasty afternoon storm
- Sadly, consider leaving your pup at home for this trek, as the terrain can be difficult and dangerous for your four-legged friend
- Pack plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and fueled as you climb to extreme elevations
- In the fall and winter months, crampons are a must and consider bringing trekking poles too
- If you are a beginner or not acclimated to the area’s high altitude, consider packing oxygen
- Grab a well-deserved beer at Two Mile Brewing Company in Leadville after your trek
Getting to the North Mount Elbert Trail Trailhead
The North Mount Elbert Hike is accessed via the Mount Elbert Trailhead off Halfmoon Road near Leadville, CO.
North Mount Elbert Trail Elevation Graph
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North Mount Elbert Trail Reviews
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