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South Mt. Elbert Trail
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South Mt. Elbert Trail

 
South Mt. Elbert Trail

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 39.11780°N / 106.4447°W

Object Title: South Mt. Elbert Trail

Route Type: Hiking

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Time Required: Most of a day

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes
 

 

Page By: Alan Ellis

Created/Edited: Aug 10, 2007 / Aug 20, 2015

Object ID: 322285

Hits: 63100 

Page Score: 84.81%  - 19 Votes 

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Overview

This is considered one of the two standard routes for Mt. Elbert. The other "standard" route is via the Northeast Ridge and is called the North Mt. Elbert Trail. Either one is good in summer conditions, but the south Mt. Elbert Trail is considered the standard winter route.

The South Mt. Elbert Trail is a great route and a relatively easy hike for someone in reasonable physical condition. The trail is well established and easy to follow. The key to a successful climb is an early start. A sunrise start is ideal to beat the afternoon storms.

Getting There

From Leadville, drive south approximately 10 miles to the intersection of U.S. 24 and Colorado (CO) 82. From Buena Vista drive north 20 miles to the same intersection. Once on CO 82, drive west 4 miles to Lake County Road 24 (Do not confuse with U.S. 24). Turn right (north) on Lake County 24 and drive one mile to Lakeview Campground. The trailhead is on the northwest side of the campground and is also an access point for the Colorado/Continental Divide Trail in which a short section runs from Lakeview to the North Mt. Elbert Trailhead.  Expect the trailhead parking lot to be full on a typical summer weekend day.  Shortly after Lakeview Campground, turn left into an obvious parking area, overlook, and dirt road. This is the 2WD trailhead at 9560 ft. High clearance vehicles can drive to 10,440 ft at the upper trailhead by driving west past the parking lot on a rough road for 2 miles until the road ends and you see other vehicles parked. The upper trailhead is on the north side of the parking area. Cross a creek via a footbridge and continue a short distance until reaching a signed intersection of the Mt. Elbert/Colorado/Continental Divide Trail where you turn left (NW).

Route Description

After crossing the footbridge, you will arrive at a sign for the Mt. Elbert Trail. Follow the sign, turning left (NW) up toward the mountain. The section after this is somewhat steep and finishes with switchbacks through an aspen forest. Just above the aspen forest, the trail levels out into meadows and conifer at 11,400 ft. From here, your first view of the summit will be seen. Hike along fairly level ground through conifer until reaching treeline. The trail will turn northwest and head toward a ridge. Gain the ridge and follow it to just below the summit. From there, the trail will circle around a little to the southeast side of the mountain where the trail continues via short switchbacks to the summit.

Round trip from the lower trailhead (9560) is 11.2 miles and 4850 ft of elevation gain. Round trip from the upper trailhead (10,440) is 7.6 miles and 4000 ft of elevation gain.


Essential Gear

Standard day hike gear including synthetic clothing, lots of water, sunscreen, and rain gear. Don't forget your camera!


Additions and Corrections

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Viewing: 1-2 of 2    
jcscratch1Driving to upper trailhead

jcscratch1

Hasn't voted

I scouted the South Trail the night before I summitted Elbert via the north ridge trail.



There is a small stream that crosses the road just prior to the upper trailhead. I had no problems getting my rental Chevy Cruze to that point, but didn't try to cross the stream.



The road was dry and traction wasn't an issue, but you may need 4WD if the road is wet.



The road doesn't have ruts, but has about 11 swales perpendicular to the road to keep water from running down the road. This is why you need a high clearance vehicle; while I did make it over all of them in the Cruze, I bottomed real hard on a couple of them.



Ultimately, my family and I didn't want to deal with a small stream crossing at the beginning of the climb in the dark, so we did the north ridge trail.
Posted Aug 19, 2015 9:47 pm
Alan EllisRe: Driving to upper trailhead

Alan Ellis

Hasn't voted

Thanks for the info!



AE
Posted Aug 20, 2015 2:34 pm

Viewing: 1-2 of 2    

Images

Mt. Elbert from Twin Lakes...Atop ElbertSouth Mt Elbert TrailAscending Mt ElbertSouth Trail, ElbertAspen Grove7-12-11
"Road" to the South Mt Elbert TrailSoutheast RidgeWinter campTele at 14,000 feet on Easter Sunday