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 Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
 Post Date:  09/22/2009
 Date Climbed:   09/20/2009
 Posted By:  spot_coop

 End of Summer on Elbert - East Ridge   

We‘ve been meaning to hike a 14er all summer and finally got around to it 2 days before Summer was over! We were camping just west of Clear Creek Reservoir (about 17 miles south of Leadville) and decided that Elbert would be the perfect hike since it was so close!

The weather forcast for the weekend was not the best with a chance of showers every afternoon. One of the people on the trail said it was a 55% chance of rain by 11:00am! We set the alarm for 5:00am, had a quick breakfast, then took my parents jeep to the East Ridge trailhead by Twin Lakes. We scouted the road out the day before since we knew it would be dark in the morning. The road is a little rough, but if you have a high clearance vehicle, you shouldn‘t have any problems. We did see a small car that tried to make it up and was parked with a flat tire on the side. I also noticed that there was a no-smoking sticker on the window, so I bet it was a rental! I wonder if they got the extra insurance for it...

Anyway, we were the first ones to the trailhead and it was still pretty dark out. We used our headlamps for the first 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the hike along the Colorado Trail. There is a nice post where the Mt. Elbert trail splits from the Colorado Trail so anyone with a timer on their camera can get a picture with everyone in it.

Here is our picture at the sign:

We started up the trail and as we got close to timberline we looked back to see the sun starting to peek out.

There was fresh snow on the mountains and we had some dusted on the trail.

Just as you leave the trees, you can see Mt. Elbert up ahead.

The trail leads gradually upward and along the ridge. As you get closer, the trail levels off for a bit and luckily heads along the SE edge of the mountain which protected us from the wind that picked up. We had some light snow falling at this point, but it was a nice light snow.

We saw the clouds starting to move in, so I didn‘t take anymore pictures until we got to the top. Here I am with my Summit sign and a Which Wich bag (get a free sandwich when you take a pic at the top with their bag).

We had the summit to ourselves! The wind was really picking up and it was getting really cold. Our dogs are used to posing for pictures, but they weren‘t overly happy with me for trying to get them to smile on the north edge of the summit.

The next few pictures are all summit shots. Again showing that we were all alone up there. That seemed pretty strange for a Sunday!

Travis enjoying the scenery while trying to stay warm.

Family photo at the top! I love having a small, flexible tripod and a self timer on the camera.

After about 10 minutes at the top, we decided to start heading back down. Our fingers were almost numb and we even had gloves on! On our way down we passed about 8-10 people that were headed up. A few were really close to the summit, but a few others were quite a ways away. I‘m not sure if they were able to make it with the weather coming in.

Here are a few photos from the hike down:

Looking back up the trail. We didn‘t realize it was this steep until we were headed down.

One last view of Elbert before we hit the trees:

One of the highlights of the trip was the wonderful walk through the aspen grove! The trees were at the peak of their gold stage and it was absolutely beautiful! The trail had a nice covering of fallen gold leaves and the breeze resulted in leaves floating down like rain.

Travis hiking through the aspens:

Lindsey, Mariah and Brisco in the trees:

We made it back to the sign at the Colorado Trail junction and there just happened to be a couple out taking pictures and they offered to take a picture for us. We got next to the sign again and she took a great picture!
Same location as the first picture, just a bit lighter this time.

The great thing about this route is that you start & finish on part of the Colorado Trail. This section of the trail is fairly level and it makes for a great warm-up and cool-down. After all the downhill, our legs appreciated the level ground and we were able to relax and really enjoy the last few aspen trees of the hike. Our dogs had a blast on the hike as well and they‘ve hiked three 14‘ers with us over the past few years. Hopefully we‘ll be able to get a few more in with them!


Overall a great hike that I would recommend to everyone! I‘ve seen this route listed as one of the most enjoyable 14er hikes and I agree.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Looks like a nice trip     2009-09-22 19:49:45
I did this same route on Feb 1 this year. Interesting to see it in a different climate.


.     2009-09-23 21:27:25
I bet those pups were running circles around you!!!


Pups     2009-09-24 07:05:03
The pups were definitely waiting for us more than once! The smaller one is 9 years old and she conserves her energy a little more these days. They both LOVE going hiking in the mountains and they make 14ers look easy. If only we had 4 legs too...

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