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easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby cjm3180 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:47 am

I'm taking a group of adults and kids (ages 12 -15) on a 14er. A few of the adults and kids don't have a lot of hiking experience in general, so I want to pick the easiest hike. We're staying in Buena Vista, and don't have 4WD. Reading the forums I noticed some people say La Plata was a "tough hike", but it seems like this would be one of the easier ones since it's only 3400 ft elevation gain. Belford is 4500 ft elevation gain which seems like it woudl be harder.

(edit: I'm looking at the SW route of La Plata, which is only 3400 ft elevation gain)


About us...The adults are in 30's and 40's and everyone is in average/decent shape. We're coming from Kansas City, and will be in Colorado several days before we do the hike (to get used to elevation). We have a Honda Pilot, so I think we can make it up the "high clearence" road to La Plata.
Last edited by cjm3180 on Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby MtHurd » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:01 pm

I think the general consensus on La Plata's "standard" route is the Northwest Ridge Route which has the same elevation gain as Belford, so that is what people were probably comparing. The Southwest Ridge should be much easier. I did the Northwest Ridge on La Plata and it was about like Belford. The Southwest Ridge route on La Plata should be ok for your group. Just make sure you start your hiking at first light to avoid afternoon thunderstorms.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby metalmountain » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:07 pm

cjm3180 wrote:I'm taking a group of adults and kids (ages 12 -15) on a 14er. A few of the adults and kids don't have a lot of hiking experience in general, so I want to pick the easiest hike. We're staying in Buena Vista, and don't have 4WD. Reading the forums I noticed some people say La Plata was a "tough hike", but it seems like this would be one of the easier ones since it's only 3400 ft elevation gain. Belford is 4500 ft elevation gain which seems like it woudl be harder.


About us...The adults are in 30's and 40's and everyone is in average/decent shape. We're coming from Kansas City, and will be in Colorado several days before we do the hike (to get used to elevation). We have a Honda Pilot, so I think we can make it up the "high clearence" road to La Plata.



It depends on what people are comfortable with I suppose. They both have their advantages/disadvantages. La Plata has a good amount of talus hopping up toward the top. Some people don't always enjoy that. On Belford you don't really have to deal with any talus, if I remember correctly. The standard route up La Plata doesn't need a 4wd to access, its directly off of a paved road. Overall in my opinion the trail up La Plata is a little more gradual than the one up Belford, with less switchbacks. Belford starts out pretty steep with a switchbacks, then you hit them again up high. It can be a bit of pain on the knees on the way down. But you also get the option for Oxford if everyone feels good. Belford is also a shorter drive from BV.

Personally I think the standard route up La Plata is more enjoyable. The hike once you get to to treeline was super pretty. But we all have our own opinions :)
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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby djkest » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:35 pm

From Buena Vista, seems like Mt. Yale would be an obvious choice. I'd say it's easier than either of those hikes that you mentioned. Trailhead access is paved.
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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby semitrueskerm » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:36 pm

Interesting that the 14ers Ranked by Difficulty on this site has, by consensus, La Plata NW ridge as more difficult than Belford NW ridge. I'd vote that Belford is a bit more difficult for the same reasons mentioned above. Don't know about La Plata's SouthWest route. I agree that Mt. Yale is easier than both. However, if you are looking for easier, Mt. Elbert is the gentle giant.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby MtHurd » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:55 pm

semitrueskerm wrote:Interesting that the 14ers Ranked by Difficulty on this site has, by consensus, La Plata NW ridge as more difficult than Belford NW ridge. I'd vote that Belford is a bit more difficult for the same reasons mentioned above. Don't know about La Plata's SouthWest route. I agree that Mt. Yale is easier than both. However, if you are looking for easier, Mt. Elbert is the gentle giant.



La Plata's Southwest Ridge has 900 ft. less elevation gain than Yale. I think that is why cjm is looking at La Plata.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby cjm3180 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:04 pm

Yes, I was just figuring that the shortest/least elevation gain = the easiest. I thought the talus at the top of La Plata might be the reason some people say it's more difficult. I just didn't know if there was anything special about the SW ridge that made it difficult.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby mike_kadow » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:16 pm

cjm3180 wrote:I just didn't know if there was anything special about the SW ridge that made it difficult.


Some people find the descent through the loose dirt and scree above the marsh annoying. Having a larger sized-shoe helps!

If I had to choose either again, it would be La Plata because of the scenery/views and thought Belford's descent was harder on the knees.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby djkest » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:19 pm

SW ridge of La Plata access is very rough. If you don't have 4WD, I'm not sure you should even attempt that. And, you'll most likely end up parking at LEAST 400' below the trailhead.

Forget the gain, Mt. Yale is easier.

SW La Plata has a narrow and sometimes steep trail up a small creek gulley, followed by marshy, muddy willows, followed by a very steep and loose section, followed by the largest pile of talus/boulders you have ever seen, followed by 3/4 of a mile hiking over 14,000'. It's not an "easy" hike for 1st timers.
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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby PeteDunnewald » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:25 pm

La Plata SW ridge has a rougher road to the trailhead (although not as bad as it used to be), a section of mud that can suck the boot right off your foot, and steep scree getting up to the ridge from the valley. That said, it is a beautiful valley with flowers and views. Still one of my favorites.
Pete

Edit: OK, see above. :) Too slow on the typing!

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby LostSole » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:29 pm

I think Huron might be a good choice for your group.

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Re: easier hike: La Plata or Belford?

Postby cjm3180 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:40 pm

thanks guys! that's what I needed.

I was thinking about Huron also (from the 2WD TH). I was trying to weigh less milage/difficult terrain (La Plata/Belford) vs. longer miles/gentle terrain. Sounds like Huron or Yale is probably the answer. Appreciate the help!

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