Mt Oxford is a rewarding mountain to climb, and it is usually climbed by going over and summiting Mt Belford first, which makes for a long day. The easiest route is Class 2, although predominately Class I. Some hearty climbers will try to also climb Missouri Mountain the same day making a 14 1/2 mile trip and a 7400 feet gain to bag all 3 in the same day. Most prefer to do Belford and Oxford one day and Missouri Mountain the next. If you do "just" the Belford- Oxford combo expect to spend about 9-11 hours on the mountains and gain 5900' total elevation. This is a long climb, and if you want to beat the afternoon thunderstorms (highly recommended) consider a pre dawn start to increase your chances of success.
Take Chaffee County 390 (20 miles S of Leadville on Hwy 24) west for 7.7 miles to the trailhead near Vicksburg, on the left side of the road. This is the Missouri Gulch trailhead.
The most popular, and easiest route up Oxford is to first climb Belford up the West Slopes and then descend to the Belford/Oxford saddle and then up Oxford and return back over Belford. This route is class 2 . From the Missouri Gulch trailhead the roundtrip is 11miles with an altitude gain of 5900 feet.
From the Missouri Gulch trailhead cross the Clear Creek Bridge and start up the switchbacks. Cross the multi log bridge back over to the creeks east side. As you break out above tree line the rest of the trail comes into sight. Continue up the trail to 11,660 and before the trail crosses back to the creeks west side. The Colorado Fourteener Initiative trail breaks off here to the southeast. Take this CFI trail up the switchbacks to the summit.
After summiting Belford descend southeast to the saddle then up the west ridge to the Oxford summit. Return back over Belford summit and descend Missouri Gulch.
Very few climbers climb Oxford alone due to its closeness to other 14ers. See the routes link for an alternate approach from Harvard.
The easist route up the mountain is from the Missouri Gulch trailhead. It is 11 miles roundtrip and 5900' elevation gain if you do the most popular route- the Belford/ Oxford combo. From the trailhead cross the bridge at Clear Creek. Stay on the well marked trail up the steep switchbacks to Missouri Gulch. After the switchbacks cross to the creek's east side over the bridge. When you get to treeline you will see the trail to the summit and the CFI trail on the shoulder. Before the trail crosses the creek again look for the CFI trial heading southeast. Take the CFI trail up more switchbacks to the ridge and the summit of Belford. From the summit descend SE along the ridge to the saddle, then up the easy slope to the Oxford summit. Return back over Belford summit.
From Belford summit to Oxford summit and back to the Belford summit is about 2-3 hours. Keep this in mind as you plan your timing as this is a long time to be on an open ridgeline should weather and storms move in. Once again, get an EARLY START.
The easiest way to get to Mt Oxford is to climb Mt Belford first by way of the West Slopes. This is primarily a Class 1, but becoming class 2 later in the route. Then continue on the West Slopes over to Mt Oxford and return to the Belford summit and back down to the Missouri Gulch trailhead. This is a relatively easy route and conditions are good. You can contact the Forest Service for latest updates at 719-553-1400.
Conditions on this mountain, like all Colorado 14ers, are subject to change rapidly- especially during the prime climbing summer season. The mountains are their own weather system, and weather forecasts from nearby towns often have little to do with actual mountain conditions. You can generally count on clear to partly cloudy in the morning, and heavy clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the summer.
The following weather forecast is included as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for good judgement. Expect mountain conditions to be no better than forecast and possibly much worse. NOTE: The weather site is temporaily unavailable due to technical difficulties.
There is no substitute for getting an early start, and getting as much of the mountain "behind you" as early in the day as possible. Keep a good eye on the sky as weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly. The greatest weather danger is from lightning strikes, and climbers are killed almost every summer in Colorado by lightning strikes. July seems to be the most deadly month for lightning.
Two climbers were killed by lightning in Colorado within a couple days of each other in the summer of 2003. I think the following important information from Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Fourteeners From Hikes to Climbs" bears repeating. Added here with permission from Gerry Roach:
Colorado is famous for apocalyptic lightning storms that threaten not just your life, but your soul as well. This section will have special meaning if you have ever been trapped by a storm that endures for more than an hour and leaves no gap between one peal of thunder and the next. The term simultaneous flash-boom has a very personal meaning for many Colorado Climbers
1. Lightning is dangerous!
2. Lightning is the greatest external hazard to summer mountaineering in Colorado.
3. Lightning kills people every year in Colorado's mountains.
4. Direct hits are usually fatal.
1. Start early! Be off summits by noon and back in the valley by early afternoon.
2. Observe thunderhead buildup carefully, noting speed and direction; towering thunderheads with black bottoms are bad.
3. When lightning begins nearby, count the seconds between flash and thunder, then divide by 5 to calculate the distance to the flash in miles. Repeat to determine if lightning is approaching.
4. Try to determine if the lightning activity is cloud-to-cloud or ground strikes.
5. Get off summits and ridges.
1. You cannot outrun a storm; physics wins.
2. When caught, seek a safe zone in the 45-degree cone around an object 5 to 10 times your height.
3. Be aware of ground currents; the current from a ground strike disperses along the ground or cliff, especially in wet cracks.
4. Wet ropes are good conductors.
5. Snow is not a good conductor.
6. Separate yourself from metal objects.
7. Avoid sheltering in spark gaps under boulders and trees.
8. Disperse the group. Survivors can revive one who is hit.
9. Crouch on boot soles, ideally on dry, insulating material such as moss or grass. Dirt is better than rock. Avoid water.
The following link is also helpful: Lightning Safety and Crouch
Also see this personal account of a lightning strike by nchenkin
- It will make you really think about lightning safety Struck By Lightning!
There is no camping allowed at the trailhead. Free camping is available along the left side of County 390 from highway 24 to the trailhead. There is no formal campground- just available primitive campsites. Many have fire rings and are near a creek.
There is also remains of an old log cabin about a mile or so up the route- just before you get to treeline. The "cabin" is full of scrap metal and has no roof- so you can't sleep in it, but surrounding it is plenty of area for a backcountry campsite. If you want to shorten the climb, or you plan to do Missouri from the same trailhead, and want to avoid the switchbacks at the lower end of the trail for a second time, you might want to consider carrying your camping gear to this site.
When To Climb
This is a popular mountain since many hikers like to bag Mt Oxford after bagging Mt Belford. June-September is the busiest time of year with July and August being peak times. Out of season would be a long day if climbing up and over Belford, many valleys to ski down from there back to Missouri Gulch though. Try to avoid the crowds by hiking during the week if possible. Remember the Colorado weather is likely to produce afternoon thunderstorms, so it is best to get of the summit ridges by noon or 1 pm if possible.
People Pics and Miscellaneous Information
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Maps and Contact
MAPS San Isabel National Forest
USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles Mt. Harvard and Winfield
Trails Illustrated #129 Buena Vista/Collegiate Peaks
Leadville Ranger District
2015 North Poplar - Leadville, CO - 80461
Phone (719) 486-0749
Fax (719) 486-0928
External LinksCOLORADO 14ERS INITIATIVE
LEARN MORE ABOUT COLORADO 14ERS AND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Leave No Trace
Check out the web site of LNT and learn some important minimum impact hiking tips.
Colorado Mountain Club
CMC’s web site will tell you all you need to know about Colorado’s largest and oldest hiking club.