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South Mt. Elbert Trailhead
Added by BillMiddlebrook

Location:  Sawatch Range
14ers Served:  Mt. Elbert
Road Type:  Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD paved to the lower (main) TH. 4WD dirt to 10,400’ at the upper TH.
Directions:  From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west toward Twin Lakes. Drive about 4 miles and turn right onto the 24 road. Drive 1.2 miles up a hill to the main trailhead parking area (paved) on the left. This is the lower trailhead and 2WD vehicles should park here. Continue 50 feet past the lower TH and turn left on Forest Service road 125.1B (4WD). From here it’s 1.8 miles to the upper trailhead. Walk or drive up the 4WD road to reach the start of the trail.

Along the 4WD road there are many pull-offs and some camping spots. Near 0.5 mile there’s a rough patch on the road but most 4WD vehicles should be able to get past it. Near 1.5 miles there’s a very rough patch that will stop most vehicles. If you can’t drive past this point, there’s parking down the road a bit. Continue to the end of the road to find parking throughout the trees and the start of the trail.
Winter Access:  Closed at the start of the 4WD road.
14er Trailheads on Google Maps
Date Status Information Posted By  Photos  Comments Likes Dislikes    
2013-04-28 Made it up to about 200 ft short of the ‘trailhead‘ in a subaru outback, road was mostly dry. The last 100 or so ft is muddy, though, and could get you stuck if you‘re not careful. If you‘re worried about it, go in/out at night or early morning when it‘s frozen. GregMiller         
2013-02-05 Climbed Mt. Elbert today via the East Ridge. I drive a 1998 4wd Toyota 4Runner with some beefy all-terrain tires and was able to make it within maybe 200 feet of what appeared to be the last parking area (fairly large) before the 4wd trailhead. There‘s a spot big enough for 1 car right about there, on the right. Someone came after me in a Jeep Grand Cherokee with cables on the front and made it the last few hundred feet into the last parking area. It looked like they had quite a time with it, but at that point, they really had no choice other than backing out for quite a ways (which I wouldn‘t recommend at that point). There were two spots, curves, close to the end where I got a little too far out of the ruts and got stuck for a few seconds, but was able to work my way out. That‘d be my #1 caution - the snow outside the ruts is slushy and it doesn‘t take getting out of them very far before you‘re sliding or stuck. The way out was fairly smooth but again, you could get into trouble if you‘re going too fast and get out of the ruts, especially since you‘re descending. Dang ole gravity. Info the the attached pictures: #1 (IMG_0097) is what the road looks like along the last curve to the final parking area, taken from where I parked (my truck is out of frame to the right). If you look to the left through the trees, you can see the Jeep I mentioned. #2 (IMG_009 is a close up of the conditions at the last parking area, where the Jeep is (obviously). #3 (IMG_0099) shows where I pulled off. Also note that just beyond the Jeep to the left, there‘s a trail that goes into the Aspen. I have no idea where it goes. I assume it meets up with the Elbert trail, but it is not the official trailhead. Keep walking up the 4wd road past the final parking area for about 1/5 a mile to get to the 4wd trailhead. vdavidoff  3       
2013-01-27 Approx 4 in of new snow on top of the hard pack snow made this a dicey drive up to the 4wd TH. The descent was quite spooky- stayed in 4WLow the entire time to let the engine do all the breaking. Any touch of the breaks caused immediate sliding. FatBaxter         
2013-01-19 The 4WD trailhead is still accessible by stock 4WD vehicles, which is a rarity in Jan! Kevin Baker         
2013-01-10 I parked at the lower trailhead and walked from there. I really think I could have chained up my ‘06 Honda Civic and driven to the upper trailhead parking lot at 10,400‘. The big holes on the 4WD road are filled in, the one stream crossing is frozen solid, and somebody drove a Honda CRV to 10,400‘ on Wednesday, 1/9/13. markf         
2012-12-24 I parked at the lower trailhead this morning and skinned up to the upper TH, and then over to the South Elbert Trail and roughly half-way from there to treeline. I could have done all that and probably the remainder of the way to the summit with just boots. The road would have been driveable to the upper TH with 4WD. The snow cover is thin and skiis were not the best choice. schrund    1    
2012-12-08 We made it to the upper trailhead without an issue in my 4Runner. Apart from a small stream crossing and some trace amounts of snow, the road was dry all the way up. stiby52         
2012-10-14 Not affected by Saturday‘s (10/13) snow storm at all. Completely dry to the 4WD trail head. smoove         
2012-08-24 I took the East ridge route up Elbert this past Tuesday. My Subaru Forester made it all the way up to the 4WD trailhead. A Chevy Impala was going slow on the road and turned around just past the creek crossing. The creek was very shallow. After the creek, was the worst part of the road and I would probably not go past that in a car, but there are plenty of spots on the road to pull off and park. Every vehicle parked at the 4WD trailhead was an SUV or truck. I saw an Outback parked just before the creek crossing. Adventure Seeker         
2012-07-30 We made it up to the upper TH in my 2005 Subaru Forester. No problems whatsoever on the 4WD portion. I echo others in saying that this probably shouldn‘t be rated a 4 anymore, it seems like someone‘s done maintenance to make it much more passable. sjverhaeghe08         
2012-07-28 The trailhead was easily handled by our Subaru Outback. It was a little rough in spots, but any passenger car could make it if you are careful. robmulcahey         
2012-06-25 change that 4 to a 1.5 jam6880         
2012-06-18 No real rough patches left. I took an Xterra up and hauled the whole way. Getting to upper TH (within 100 yards) there was also a newer Ford Focus, and a low clearance Jeep of sorts (Compass maybe?). If you have experience or know what you are doing, pretty much anything can make it up to the upper TH right now. somethingrandom         
2012-06-07 4WD road is in excellent condition. The rough patches at 0.5 and 1.5 mi mentioned in the trailhead description are no longer existent. The only rough patch is 200 yards from the trailhead. Parking seems very limited, though. mtnkub         
2012-03-30 You can drive all the way up the dirt road to the parking area at the trail head. Summited with only hiking boots cool_stew         
2012-03-24 Made it most of the way up the 4WD road in the 4Runner. Obviously high clearance 4WD is required, but I did see a Subaru Outback that made it. Road was frozen/packed snow and dirt at 4 AM. When I left shortly after noon there was a good bit of snow melt and mud, but I never had any trouble. Just stay in the tire tracks in 4WD, take it slow and you should be fine. eskermo         
2012-03-21 Was able to drive an Explorer with 4WD within a few hundred feet of the upper TH. A Jeep Cherokee did the same. Going back down the road at 3 pm was interesting as the snow was soft and it was very muddy. Maybe not good for the road to do this. There is a couple of parking spots about 1 mile down from the top but not much after that. I might have stopped sooner if there was a place to park. jimmtman         
2012-03-17 The 4WD road is melting out, the first maybe 1/2 mile is dry except for one short snowy patch. After that it is spotty the next 1/2 mile but with icy patches that turn slushy/muddy in the afternoon. After the first mile the snow is more consistent to the trailhead and probably not worth attempting to drive. Aside from patchy snow (icy in AM), most SUVs could get about 1/2 way to the summer trailhead, but probably would give up before that to make sure they can park in a nice pullout. The last good parking is at a clearing on the left side of the road about 10k with a nice campsite overlooking Twin Lakes. Chicago Transplant         
2012-02-11 Semi-packed snow on 4WD road, didn‘t look passable, and just as someone else pointed out, too narrow to turn around if you get stuck. Parked at 2WD TH. j-dub         
2011-12-26 Road was well packed with 1-3 inches of snow. In a stock honda CRV we made it to about .3 of a mile below the 4wd upper TH with absolutely no issues. We stopped right before the creek crossing which has turned into a 40ft ice rink on a slanted hill. Anything other than a low clearance car will easily make it up as far as we did. defiantly not a 4x4 road at this point Andymcp1         
2011-12-10 4-wheel drive trail is packed snow and passable without a problem to 1.5 miles in. After that it‘s a whole new story, near the trail-head the snow is DEEP. I got my truck stuck and had to dig it out. Advise that if you take the 4-wheel drive trail, stop about 1.5 miles there‘s a parking spot or two there. awilbur77         
2011-08-08 Made it all the way to the upper trailhead in an Outback wagon (an older one with 15" tires). The last quarter mile or so took some thought and careful steering, but did not bottom out. Going down took patience and finesse with the brake pedal, but no real problems. The creek crossing was no problem. The last 200 yards or so has enough exposed/protruding rock that the road merits a 4WD rating in my opinion. Slow Moving Fun Seeker         
2011-07-16 4X4 road is in excellent shape. One minor stream crossing that was about 9" deep. Many high-peaked berms will likely cause longer wheelbase and passenger cars to bottom out. It was obvious that a road grader cleaned-up the road this spring. Many of the big rock obstacles near the end have been cleared. Only the last 200 yards still has rocks that‘ll take out your oil pan. But with careful tire placement, I was able to get my Ford Escape all the way to the end. On busy weekends, expect that the trailhead to be full; there‘s only room for maybe 6 cars to park between the trees. Many more parking options are about 100 yards down the road. p_bucknam         
2011-07-04 Road is very accessible and should no longer be considered 4WD. I drove our Honda Fit 3/4 of the way to the trailhead and any vehicle with average clearance should have no problem. There is only one water crossing of substance a couple of inches deep to worry about just short of the 4WD TH. There are now multiple pulloffs for those with concerns. sanchomurphy1         
2011-05-21 The 4WD road is clear of snow until about 2/3 of a mile from the actual TH. At worst the road is a little muddy until this point. If you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle go ahead and drive until you can‘t drive anymore. It will save you much of the road walk out on the return! Barb4rian         

The main (2WD) trailhead, with Elbert in the distance. (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-01-17)The start of the 4WD road leading to the upper trailhead (closed in winter). (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-01-17)TH and end of the 4WD road (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-05-25)Start of the trail (Added by: BillMiddlebrook on 2007-05-25)stream crossing (Added by: rwilson on 2007-08-17)

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