| Beautiful hike to Mt. Oxford via Belford; returned via Elkhead Pass trail
I headed out from Denver and met up with my Boulderite son-in-law Eric at the Indian Hills Park 'n Ride west of Morrison along Hwy 285. We left there about 6:20 and headed over to Fairplay and on to Buena Vista. The ground fog in the in the valley heading SW towards Fairplay was gorgeous... no photos, unfortunately.
Road to the TH was great and we started our hike at 8:45, a bit later than we would have liked but we were OK with that due to clear skies and positive forecasts. The switchbacks up to Missouri Gulch were a real waker-upper; we should have run a couple laps around the TH parking lot to loosen up beforehand!
Once we hit the top of the switchbacks and the trail flattened out along the creek bed the hike became pure pleasure. The trail isn't too rocky and our cross-trainer clad feet appreciated that. Hit the infamous log cabin ruins as our first major landmark; only a couple tents there.
It was a beautiful hike up Missouri Gulch. The trail was clear and dry, the elevation gain was modest, and the morning light was photography-friendly.
We quickly climbed to halfway up Belford's slopes. The trail is amazingly well maintained and it was a pleasure to climb with many stone steps, sure footing, few rock marbles, and a forgiving grade in just the right spots. Here's a look over a Missouri Mountain and the gulch from the Belford slopes.
Eric stands at a large flat before the final push to the summit with Elkhead Pass and Missouri Mountain behind him...
...and on the summit itself with Mount Oxford behind.
It was just a spectacular day up there. Time was 12:15 p.m. I also shot an obligatory self-portrait. Hope to meet y'all atop a peak someday!
Still on top of Belford, two hikers approach after returning from the Belford-Oxford saddle out of view off to the left. Mount Harvard looms in the background.
We summited Oxford just before 2:00. There was some loose dirt and quite a bit of mud on the climb down from Belford to the saddle, as well as some exposure. I guess that's where the Class 2 comes in. We skirted one patch of snow on the easy hike up to Oxford. Eric found a nice seat on the rocky windblock atop Oxford.
The day was still clear and Pike's Peak was beautiful, lonesome, and snow-topped in the distance to the SE.
We passed a few ptarmigan on the way back to Belford; see if you can find three of them in this picture!
Eric heads back to the saddle and back up Belford.
Eric and I were still contemplating a climb of Missouri Mountain at this point, depending on how we felt and time of day once we reached the Missouri trail intersection. We knew we needed to intersect the Elkhead Pass trail and we had discussed the best way to avoid reclimbing most of Belford from the Oxford-Belford saddle. We did a brief test foray out onto the scree field visible on the left in the above image, but the slope proved unstable and awkward and we sucked it up and returned to the main trail. Our venture did help us avoid the steepest mud and dirt patch though.
We found a distinct trail to the left about 100 verical feet short of the Belford summit that took us over to the Elkhead Pass trail. At this point I was pretty tired and not looking forward to any more upclimbs after the hike from the saddle. Still, we wanted to at least scout out Elkhead Pass and the Missouri Mountain trail intersection, in addition to taking an alternate route on the way out to enjoy even more of this beautiful area. The Elkhead Pass trail proved to be a delightful gentle slope to lower altitudes and it was in great condition. I would highly recommend this route to anyone looking to extend their Bedford-Oxford hike/climb experience.
Eric takes a breather at the cairn marking Elkhead Pass.
We reached the Missouri Mountain trail intersection at 4:00 or so and, despite it being very late in the day for peaks, found ourselves mightily enticed.
Common sense won out, however, and we agreed that we would enjoy the peak much more at a future date when we were fresh and had more daylight with a requisite early start. We'd also have a ready reason to come back to this wonderful spot. We hiked out without incident and reached the trailhead in two hours. We stopped for a bit on the way to trade tips and tricks with two Iowans who were looking for a campsite after driving in overnight and hiking up the gulch. The aspens were blazing in the lowering sun as we approached the trailhead.
We're looking forward to returning to tackle Missouri Mountain and perhaps a few other nearby peaks. We definitely have Mount Harvard fever after admiring it from atop Oxford. Kudos once again to whoever is responsible for the amazing trailwork on the route up Belford.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):