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La Plata Peak
standard Northwest Ridge
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Difficulty:
 Class 2 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Moderate
Rockfall Potential: Moderate  
Route-Finding: Low  
Commitment: Moderate  
 
Trailhead:La Plata Peak
Start:10,000 feet
Summit:14,336 feet
Total Gain:4,500 feet
RT Length:9.25 miles
Duration:User Climb Times
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:10/2019
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:359 reports
Cell Signal:28 reports
Sheriff:Lake: 719-486-1249
 Chaffee: 719-539-2596
Forest:San Isabel
Wilderness:Collegiate Peaks
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Trailhead

From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west towards Twin Lakes. Drive 14.5 miles on Colorado 82 until you see the marked trailhead and parking area on the left.

Route

1 shows the route seen from Colorado 82. From the parking area, walk down South Fork Lake Creek road 100 yards, cross a vehicle bridge ( 2) and continue on the road for 1/4 mile to a trail sign on the left - 3. Walk east into the woods and continue on the good trail. Hike through the forest and cross South Fork Lake Creek on a metal+wood bridge - 4. Turn sharply right up from the bridge, walk another 1/3 mile and cross La Plata Gulch on a log bridge. Turn right and reach a small clearing shortly after the bridge crossing where you may find a thin trail that heads off to the east - be sure to stay right on the main trail. Continue south along La Plata Gulch. Between 10,400' and 10,700', the trail has log and stone steps ( 5) that make the steep climb through the forest a bit easier.

Above 11,000', hike along La Plata Gulch ( 6) before the trail begins to climb left, away from the gulch. Near 11,400', climb steeply up a gully with a series of small switchbacks - 7. Near 11,800', the trail straightens out and traverses south across the hillside - 8. Near 12,300', reach a flat area and a large, square boulder . Walk through an open area before turning left and climbing a steep pitch leading to the northwest ridge - 9. Once on the ridge (12,750'), you are still 1.25 miles from the summit and the hiking becomes more difficult. The remaining route weaves through the rocks on or just below the ridge crest.

10 and 11 show a couple of different views of the terrain above. Hike to the base of a buttress and follow the trail as it turns right and climbs around to the west side of the ridge. Taken from a lower elevation, 12 shows the area. This is the most confusing part of the hike because the talus makes route-finding a bit difficult. Follow the trail as it eventually turns left (east) and climbs back to the ridge. If you lose the trail and feel you have gone too far along the west side, turn left and climb directly up to the ridge crest. Reach the ridge crest near a flat spot at 13,500' - 13. The summit is visible but steep hiking remains and the trail may be hard to follow - 14. Near 13,800', the trail becomes more defined as it ascends the right edge of the ridge. Above 14,000', swing west to reach a point - 15. Turn left and follow the trail to the summit - 16, 17 and 18.

In Winter

In wintery months, portions of the standard route may be prone to avalanche activity. To avoid this danger, it's often best to leave the standard route near 10,800' and climb southeast through the trees to gain the crest of the northwest ridge at 11,800', near tree line. Then climb a steep, rocky headwall and continue along the ridge to re-join the standard route, near 12,750'. The climb up the headwall is no joke and more difficult (Difficult Class 2) than anything on the standard trail. For more information on reaching the headwall, please take a look at the first paragraph of La Plata's North Face route description.

Notes

The first half of this hike is easy, but don't be fooled, once you start climbing up to the ridge and beyond, it's more challenging. This route may not appear to be 9.5 miles on the map, but the mileage adds up with all of the many switchbacks. 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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