Mt. Elbert was our first 14er of the season (13th total), and we chose it since it was one of the “easier” trails. We decided to do a one-day excursion, so we left the house in Colorado Springs at 3:30am. We arrived at the Mt. Elbert trailhead at 6:15am. This was one of the smoothest roads we have been on for a 14er trailhead. We were driving a Honda Pilot, but you could easily make it with a lower clearance vehicle. After a quick snack and bathroom break, we started on our way by 6:30am.
After just a short few minutes, the trail takes a quick turn the left, and there is a small stream crossing. There is an action shot of me crossing the stream.
Stream crossing The trail starts off a little steep with some switchbacks, but is followed by a fairly lengthy downhill section (noticed more on the way back since it is uphill!!). Once the downhill is over, there are some more fairly steep parts, but there are very few switchbacks overall on the trail.
trail in the beginning There is a fork in the trail still before hitting treeline, and make sure to stay to the right.
pointing to where the trail is Once we got to the treeline, there is a glimpse of the summit, and shows how long that last section from the false summit to the actual summit.
view of mt. elbert, summit on the left.
Once above the treeline, there are a few switchbacks
coming up the switchbacks before getting to the steepest portion of the trail, at about 13,400 ft.
coming up the steep part This part of the trail is the most challenging, and does have a portion that involves some scrambling if you miss the trail on the right. I would highly recommend getting on the right trail, and not a choose-your-own-adventure, like you can see me doing here.
going up the steep part the wrong way… go around to the right… Looking back down, we can see how far we have come.
looking down on the steep part After getting past the most challenging section of hiking, it took longer than expected to get to the summit, even with a more gradual slope to the top.
Once there, the views (as always) were worth it, especially from the highest point in Colorado!
panoramic photo from the top There was not a cloud in the sky, although the winds were in excess of 60 mph.
we made it to the top! There were many people on the summit who had hiked Mt. Elbert as their first 14er. It is always exciting to talk to people who have accomplished that for the first time, since their enthusiasm is very contagious. After my husband took a short nap, we headed back down the trail to complete the journey and get out of the cold.
Overall, it took about 3.5 hours on the way up, and a little over 2 hours on the way down. It was a lovely hike, and a perfect day and peak to start our 14er season!
*On a separate note, we arrived back to Colorado Springs to find Waldo Canyon burning and the wildfire spreading rapidly. As the situation continues to worsen, please just remember to pay attention to the fire danger/red flag warnings in the areas you are hiking and camping. Our hearts go out to the all of the affected people in the Colorado fires.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):