Hiking Mount Elbert – Colorado’s Highest Peak

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Article Categories: Hiking
Article Tags: CO 14er | Colorado | Day Hikes

Mount Elbert is a 14,433 foot mountain in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. Below we will cover each of the trail options, information about camping, roads, trail maps and more to help you plan and summit Colorado’s highest peak. Elbert is considered one of the easier Colorado 14ers in terms of the trail conditions and gradual steepness, however, it still requires substantial distance, elevation gain, and hikers spend a significant amount of time above treeline.

Distance – 9.6 miles round trip (15.4 km)
Height – 14,433 feet (4,399.18 m)
Elevation gain – 4,530 feet (1,380.74 m)
Duration – 7 to 9 hours (book time)
Difficulty – Strenuous
Class: Class 1 Hike
Seasons – Year-round (caution and experience needed in winter – see below)
Trailhead Location – Mount Elbert Trailhead – 10,060 feet (directions below)

 

Trails

 

North Mount Elbert Trail: 8.8 Miles Round Trip | 4,530 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 1

This is the most common route up Mount Elbert. It features a very steady gain all the way to the summit, and is a very highly trafficked trail.

There are countless dispersed campsites along the road near the trailhead, as well as established campgrounds. The hike begins in the woods and steadily rises to treeline. It is easy to follow, in great condition, and features a few false summits. hikers reach treeline 2.9 miles into the hike. From here, most of the hike is visible via the ridge, and the views are stunning from here on out.

 

South Mount Elbert Trail (4WD Vehicle): 8.8 Miles Round Trip | 4,100 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 2

This route begins near Twin Lakes Reservoir, and is frequently trafficked. The dirt road is accessible for most 4WD vehicles. This is actually the easiest route to the summit, is easy to follow, and features a steady elevation gain to the summit.

Road Conditions: During the winter the 4WD road is not accessible by car.

 

South Mount Elbert Trail (2WD Vehicle): 12.4 Miles Round Trip | 5,000 Feet Elevation Gain | Class 2

This is the same route as above just with added distance and some road walking. In the winter, the road to the 4WD is often impassable, making it necessary from starting at this trailhead.

 

Trail Map

The below map shows the standard route, mileage markers, elevation markers, and more for the North Mount Elbert Trail and the South Mount Elbert Trail.

Mount Elbert Trail Map

Mount Elbert Trail Map

Want this trail map? Here is the link.

 

Hiking Mount Elbert in Winter

Either route above can be accomplished in winter. Of course, the right gear and preparation is needed to summit Elbert in winter.

During winter the South Mount Elbert 2WD trailhead will be your best starting point as it only ads 1.8 miles on the road. The road to the North Mount Elbert trail is closed in winter.

 

Camping For Mount Elbert

The North Elbert trail features tons of dispersed campsites near the trailhead. This is an awesome location to spend the night.

There are also two National Forest campgrounds; Halfmoon East Campground & Elbert Creek Campground, located on Halfmoon road right next to the trailheads for Mount Massive and Mount Elbert. Elbert creek has RV sites for less than 35 foot RVs and 17 tent sits. You can read more about each campground at the below links:

Halfmoon East Campground

Elbert Creek Campground

Both campgrounds don’t have reservable sites, so they are first come first serve. $7 day fees for parking, $20 per site for overnight camping (2 vehicles, or 1 RV). Any additional vehicle is $6.

For the South Mount Elbert Trail, there are camping spots at the Lakeview Campground: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=12486&actid=29 

 

Current weather conditions:

Here is the detailed weather forecast for the next few days. We highly recommend you check out the mountain forecast for this region the morning of your hike.

Twin Lakes, CO

Today
Snow showers and patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 21. Wind chill values as low as -1. Southwest wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Tonight
Snow showers before 8pm, then snow showers and areas of blowing snow between 8pm and 3am, then blowing snow and snow showers likely between 3am and 5am, then a chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 5. Wind chill values as low as -16. Southwest wind 20 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around one inch possible.

Thursday
A chance of snow showers and patchy blowing snow. Mostly sunny, with a high near 11. Wind chill values as low as -19. West wind 20 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Thursday Night
Patchy blowing snow. Mostly clear, with a low around -1. Wind chill values as low as -23. West wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph.

Friday
Patchy blowing snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 14. West southwest wind 20 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph.

Friday Night
Patchy blowing snow before 5am. Partly cloudy, with a low around -1. West wind 20 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph.

Saturday
Mostly sunny, with a high near 16. West southwest wind 15 to 20 mph.

 

Directions & Parking

Directions to North Mount Elbert Trailhead

Directions To South Mount Elbert Trailhead:

 

Additional Pictures

Views From Mount Elbert

Views From Mount Elbert

Mount Massive As Seen On Mount Elbert

Mount Massive As Seen On Mount Elbert

Views of Twin Lakes From Mount Elbert

Views of Twin Lakes From Mount Elbert

Sunrise on Mount Elbert

Sunrise on Mount Elbert

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about

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