To get to the trailhead for the Southwest Ridge route up La Plata Peak, head south out of Leadville on U.S 24 for about 20 miles, or north about 4.5 miles on U.S 24 from Buena Vista, and then turn west onto Chaffee County road 390. This county road is just north of the Clear Creek Reservoir. Head up the road, which follows Clear Creek, for about 12 miles, until you get to the town of Winfield. There will be a left turn in Winfield, but stay straight and then make a 90 degree turn to the right, followed by another 90 degree turn to the left. From here to the trailhead it is advisable to be driving a four wheel drive vehicle.
From Winfield go about 1.8 miles to a vague parking area in an open area at 39.9927N, 106.4680W. There is additional parking further up the road, but very limited so this is generally the best place to park. The actual trailhead is about a tenth of the mile further up the road. Don't take the obvious, though gated road, rather at the gate find the path that heads off to the northwest.
There are numerous places to camp along the way up from U.S. 24. Additionally you will pass the trailhead to Missouri Mountain, Mounts Belford and Oxford, and the trailhead to Huron Peak is found if you turn left at Winfield.
Labor Day, 2007, I headed out to hike up La Plata Peak, which is located south of Leadville, but north of Buena Vista, in the Sawatch Range. I started the hike about 1.5 miles west of the small ghost town of Winfield (actually it isn't a ghost town for some people have moved back into the town, although only about 3 houses look like they are occupied and probably only as weekend get away cabins). From the trailhead, and for much of the hike, you cannot see the summit. For the first mile the trail follows a small creek, climbing steadily through a pine forest.
Looking towards the south offers up a view of the nice mountain valley of the South Fork of Clear Creek. The highest peak just to the right of the center of the picture is Granite Mountain (12,848 feet).
A close up view of some of the forest along side the trail
Then the trail enters into a large basin at about 11,500 feet.
Looking towards the north you still can't see the summit of La Plata, but this is the view.
But a little further up I can see that the trail goes up a gully on the opposite of the basin than that ragged rock face. This trail is not where Roach shows the trail to be, rather it is in the next gully to the west.
Looking back across the basin towards the southeast and Huron Peak.
Getting close to the section of the trail that heads up the headwall
But once I covered the half mile saddle, it was time for more climbing.
This climb was over small boulders and while there was a bit of a path at times, I basically looked for the next cairn to know which way to go. This took me to just under 14,000 feet, at which point I could finally see the summit. To get to the summit, it was a simple traverse up a boulder covered ridge, trying to avoid the two false summits.
No sooner had I got to the summit I signed the register, took a few of pictures
The distance from trailhead to summit is listed as 3.5 miles in Roach's book, but according to my GPS the distance was 4.09 miles. It took me about 3 hours to get up, but what is interesting is my GPS gives actual travel time (when I was actually moving) as only about one and a half hours, which was the same time it took to come down.