This nine mile hike is a relatively easy and scenic hike, providing stunning views of the surrounding area near Leadville and Buena Vista. Don't be fooled--this 14er requires endurance, willpower, and a lot of water.
The hike begins well below timber line, soon connecting to part of the Colorado Trail. Once the Mt. Elbert trail breaks away from the Colorado trail, the ascent turns from easy going to steep and continues at this pace until the very top. Start the hike early and take a break just before timber line, where a wide expanse of the valley below can be seen. Leadville, Twin Lakes, and Turquoise Lake glimmer far below, and the continental divide stretches out to the horizon. Once free of timber line, the trail continues in a succession of switchbacks. There are two false summits, but don't be discouraged! The view from the top is absolutely incredible.
Mt. Elbert was named in the late 1800's after Samuel Hitt Elbert, a well-respected governor of the then Territory of Colorado. Celebrated as the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountain range, Mt. Elbert has long fought for this place over Mt. Massive, a (very) nearby 14er just 12 feet shy of Mt. Elbert's 14,433feet.
To get to the trailhead, take Route 24 south from Leadville or north from Buena Vista and turn onto county road 300, heading west. Then, take the second left onto Halfmoon Road straight to the parking lot. Several campgrounds, both free and for a fee (maintained by the USDA), crop up on both sides when it turns into a dirt road. The Mt. Massive trailhead can be found on the same road just past the Mt. Elbert Trailhead.