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Mount Elbert

East Ridge
Difficulty Class 1 
Ski/Board: Intermediate, D3 / R1 / III  
Risk FactorsExposure: Low
Rockfall Potential: Low  
Route-Finding: Low  
Commitment: Low  
Start10,500 feet
Summit14,438 feet
Total Gain4,100 feet (starting at the end of the 4WD road)
4,900 feet (starting at the paved TH)
RT Length10.50 miles (starting at the end of the 4WD road)
14.50 miles (starting at the paved TH)
Last UpdatedOct 2022
DownloadsgpxGPX Track
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Please read the "In Winter" notes on this route.


From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west toward Twin Lakes. Drive about 4 miles and turn right onto the 24 road. Drive 1.2 miles up a hill to the main trailhead parking area (paved) on the left. This is the lower trailhead and 2WD vehicles should park here. Continue 50 feet past the lower TH and turn left on Forest Service road 125.1B (4WD). From here it's 1.8 miles to the upper trailhead. Walk or drive up the 4WD road to reach the start of the trail.

Along the 4WD road there are several pull-offs and camping spots. Near 0.5 mile there's usually rough section of road but most 4WD vehicles should be able to get past it. Near 1.6mi, cross a small stream. Continue to a parking area with information kiosk at 1.8mi. This is the trailhead.


1 shows the general route. Leave the 4WD parking area and cross a small creek on a foot bridge - 2. Follow the Colorado/Continental Divide trail through willows and stay left at a small trail junction - 3. Continue through aspens for nearly 0.4 mile and after descending a bit, turn left at another junction - 4. Continue a bit further and stay left at yet another junction - 5. Now on the South Mt. Elbert trail, follow it through the forest - 6. Near 11,400', the forest opens up a bit as you approach the ridge - 7. Continue up the ridge and through a clearing at 11,600' - 8. Turn left and ascend to a corner where you'll get a beautiful view of Elbert - 9. Turn right and traverse north ( 10) before regaining the west side of the ridge, near 12,200' - 11. Continue a short distance to reach a saddle on the ridge.

The route gets more difficult from this point because you'll need to gain 2,000' of elevation in the remaining 2 miles. 12 shows the next 1,000' of gain. Since 2017, The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) has been re-routing and repairing the trail in this area, so you'll notice some old trail sections which have been closed off. Leave the saddle and turn left to swing around an initial point - 13. Return to the ridge crest near 12,500' ( 14) and hike west up the ridge - 15. Pass a large rock and continue to a flat spot, at 12,900' - 16. Continue to 13,200' where you'll be able to see the crux of the route - a steeper section between 13,400' and 13,800' - 17. Overcome the steep section and swing left to continue onto Elbert's southeast face - 18. Traverse partway across the face before ascending 600 feet to reach the summit ridge. Turn left and gain the top - 19, 20 and 21.

In Winter

This is Elbert's safest winter route because there is rarely avalanche danger along the east ridge.


The east ridge isn't a great ski but it does often hold enough snow for a continuous descent.


#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21

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