Missouri Mountain - Northwest Ridge from Missouri Gulch
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||4,500 feet|
|RT Length:||10.50 miles|
|County Sheriff:||Chaffee: 719-539-2596
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
|Wilderness Area:||Collegiate Peaks|
From Leadville: Drive 20 miles south on U.S. 24 and turn right on the Chaffee County 390 road.
From Buena Vista: Drive 14.5 miles north on U.S. 24 and turn left on the Chaffee County 390 road.
On the 390 road, drive 7.5 miles to a sign for the Missouri Gulch trailhead. Turn left and drive down into the large parking area. There are restrooms here.
From the parking area, start down the Missouri Gulch Trail. Cross the bridge that spans Clear Creek and continue into the forest. Hike over 1/4 mile and then climb a bunch of switchbacks up through steep forest. Leave the switchbacks at 10,400' and continue south along Missouri Gulch. At 10,800', cross to the east side of Missouri Gulch by turning left. Hike south along the gulch for 1/3 mile until you reach the remnants of an old shack ( 38.98142° N, -106.37393° W). Leave the forest near 11,300' and the terrain soon levels out and with a view of Mt. Belford ahead - Photo #1. Missouri Mountain is partially visible from here.
Arrive at a trail junction ( 38.9743° N, -106.37322° W) near 11,600' - the Missouri Gulch Trail continues to the right and the Mt. Belford Trail turns up to the left. Stay right. Missouri is in view directly south - Photo #2. Follow the trail through willows and over a stream before turning left and climbing onto a small hill in the basin. Continue south (Photo #3) to reach a another junction ( 38.95574° N, -106.37661° W) near 12,600'. The Elkhead Pass trail continues to the left and a new trail starts off to the right. Taken from Mt. Belford, Photo #5 shows a broad view of the remaining route. Turn right at the junction and zig zag west up an easy slope - Photo #6. Near 12,900' (Photo #7), the slope eases as the trail heads toward Point 13,784'. Hike northwest to the base of a talus slope and follow the trail left across the south side of Point 13,784' - Photo #8. Your goal is to hike to the saddle between Point 13,784' and Point 13,930' (the northwest end of Missouri's summit ridge). Continue west on the trail across the rough slope - Photo #9. Taken from Mt. Belford, Photo #10 shows the slope leading to the saddle. Hike out of the talus and across the slope where the trail finally turns right and ascends to the saddle ( 38.95481° N, -106.38624° W) - Photo #11.
From the 13,700-foot saddle, the summit is 3/4 mile to the southeast. Turn left and follow the trail up and around to the west side of the ridge - Photo #12. Continue to the west side of Point 13,930', onto the northwest end of the ridge (Photo #13), and then to the ridge where you can finally see the summit - Photo #14. Follow the trail along the ridge crest. More than half way across the ridge, the trail dodges some difficulties by dropping about 20' (brief, Difficult Class 2) on the right side of the ridge - Photo #15 and Photo #16. After the drop, follow the trail to the summit ( 38.947559° N, -106.378471° W) - Photo #17. Photo #18 looks back at the ridge from the top.
The Missouri Gulch parking lot can be packed on a summer weekend. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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