Peak(s):  La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  09/23/2007
Date Climbed:   09/22/2007
Author:  TriAnything

 Fall Colors on La Plata  

Fall colors on the way to La Plata!!!

The weekend started out undetermined. My sister and I tossed around ideas of how to enjoy the fall colors. I knew from a previous trip that the fall colors by Twin Lakes were in their prime, and what better way to enjoy the trees, but from a summit view. So, it was decided La Plata was our destination. Our sisterly bonding day was set.

We awoke bright and early and were on the trial by 6:00am. It was a chilly 34 degrees outside and Sheryl was bundled up for the hike!

Sheryl getting ready to start the adventure

I had the route information all ready to go, but unfortunately, or absentminded of me, I left the information behind. I knew the turn off to the trailhead was just around the corner from the parking lot, but Sheryl and I got to be a little too chatty and missed the turnoff. Plus being in the dark didn't really help. I finally looked down at my GPS and realized we had to of missed the turn. We back tracked, by this time dawn was approaching and we found the trail! So, official we started on the trail at 7:02am. The trailhead is only ¼ of a mile from CO82 on the left. Look for a huge sign on the dirt road that warns people not to drink the water.

The trail starts by crossing over South Fork Lake Creek. Since there is an extremely high amount of mineral content in the water, the stream looks orange. The orangish rust color went well with the fall colors.

South Fork Lake Creek Waterfall

The trail continues through a grove of Aspen tree then crosses a two log bridge that goes over La Plata Gulch. I got a glimpse of the morning light on the apposing mountain side and took numerous pictures of the aspens. Along with aspens, the foliage along the stream were also a beautiful yellow color.

Aspens along the apposing ridge. Stream running alongside the trail.

The trail turns into some very nice steps that continue alongside the gulch. We continued through the steep steps and got nice views of the sun rising on apposing hillsides. Once through the steps we came out into the La Plata gulch.

Immediately we were treated to the view of Mt. Sayres -13, 738 with a fresh coat of snow on it. It was perfectly framed in the valley. Below the foliage was orange and red foliage, it was a great contrast and exemplified a Colorado Fall.

Hill at end of valley with fresh snow.

The trail breaks away from the gulch to steep switchbacks along the hillside. In the morning the warm sun was bright on the apposing hillside aspens.

Sheryl Climbing the many steep switchbacks

At the top of the switchbacks the trail flattens out on a ridge. From here you can see Ellingwood ridge and your first glimpse of the summit.

Saddle below La Plata view of Ellingwood Ridge

The latest storm left snow along the talus field to the summit. Since the trip was a little impromptu, we didn't pack gators, but the snow wasn't deep enough to warrant them yet. We followed footprints from earlier hikers which took us around to the northeastern part of the mountain. I don't believe we stayed on the trail, but we weren't going to try and break trail ourselves. It wasn't exactly the path of least resistance, but it sure did get us there.

Sis going up towards snowfield

Snow Field

Last climb through Talus

The temperature atop was a little chilly, so we didn't stay too long. Just long enough to get a few summit shots. We arrived at 10:30, so it took us roughly 3 ½ hours to summit. Pretty decent considering I stopped every 20 yrds to take pictures.

Sheryl and I – La Plata 14, 361

View from summit

Sheryl was eager to get out of the wind, so we began our descent quite soon. Once we got out of the snow field and back on the ridge, we took a few minutes to enjoy the view and the colors from atop. The day's weather was holding out pretty good, there were no grimacing clouds in the horizon. Since both of us have problems with knees, we took some time ascending. Once again, I stopped every 20 yards to take pictures.

View of Sayres coming down

Gulch with Aspens

View of Aspens from Trail

Last Look at La Plata

South Fork Lake Creek Road on way down

Aspens on apposing hillside during hike down

We ended up back at the trailhead right when the clouds started to roll in. It was perfect timing! All in all it was a great fall hike with colors abundant.

Me and Sheryl at Trailhead

So, if anyone wants to do a beautiful fall 14er, I would highly suggest La Plata!

(Scooter, here it is! Told ya! Thanks for going Sheryl Love You)


 Comments or Questions

Sweet pictures!
02/05/2011 00:22
Nice job with La Plata- what a great thing to do with your sister. Those pictures you have of the leaves changing colors are gorgeous!


Beautiful Day!
10/30/2008 20:51
If only all days had weather like Saturday was up there. I met you two at the bottom of the snowfield (you were going down, I was headed up ) Looked like you were having fun together!Great pictures!


trip report
11/30/2010 17:28
hey, I have the same cooler with the hinges that don't stay on.

excellent pictures and report!


Nice Pics Rachael!!
09/24/2007 19:05
It was a nice, but windy day up in the Sawatch. I was over knocking out Belford & Oxford. Beautiful colors all over!


09/25/2007 02:19
No more LaPlata nemesis, eh? Looks like a good day.


09/25/2007 02:21
Nice pics! Looks nicer than last weekend on La Plata and you sure picked the best day of the weekend!


09/28/2007 19:35
report Rachel, those pictures look amazing


you two Rock !!!!
10/17/2007 03:33
did La Plata about a month ago, I remembered the ”staircase from hell” in the trees before it flattened out...

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