Mt. Elbert (South) Trailhead


Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD paved to the lower (main) TH. 4WD dirt to 10,400' at the upper TH.

Driving Directions

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 many pull-offs and some camping spots. Near 0.5 mile there's a rough patch on the road but most 4WD vehicles should be able to get past it. Near 1.5 miles there's a very rough patch that will stop most vehicles. If you can't drive past this point, there's parking down the road a bit. Continue to the end of the road to find parking throughout the trees and the start of the trail.

Winter Access

Closed at the start of the 4WD road.
Status Updates 
Posted By: EJDenver
Info: Took the 4WD road to the East Mt.Elbert trailhead from the twin lakes area. (the sign at this trailhead says S.Mount Elbert trail but it’s called the East Route on this website/the map)

Road is clear of snow, a bit rocky in places (standard). There was a fallen tree branch sticking a small bit into the road but can easily be maneuvered around. There is one spot about 3/4 of the way to the 4WD trailhead that is fairly rocky/runout right before a stream crosses the road. Water is roughly 6" deep, running quickly but we did it in a Tacoma no problem and saw Subaru foresters at the trailhead as well. These areas may take some maneuvering but if you’re careful clearance should not be an issue. Just make sure your water bottles are closed, its a bit of a bumpy ride.

Plenty of dispersed camping along the way.
Posted By: jmanner
Info: Dry all the way to the upper trailhead. Its definitely required awd, but the road isnt too rough.
Posted By: angry
Info: Fresh snowfall today but still accessible to the 2wd TH.
Posted By: Jimmy Jay
Info: Just did a recon run for an oh-dark-thirty climb tomorrow morning, and the 4wd road is good all the way up. Didn’t need 4wd at all, but high clearance is a must and good approach/departure angles. Saw a Chevy Equinox stopped just before the river crossing near the end, but it’s only a few inches deep and he could have made it up farther.
Posted By: tjhoff
Info: Was able to get a 2WD sedan about half a mile from the 4WD TH. Flat area with room for about 3 cars.
Posted By: hopkinds
Info: Easy 4wd all the way to upper trail head. No snow on the road. Most high clearance vehicles should have no trouble. Deep ruts from previous years have been smoothed out. My jeep wrangler had no trouble.
Posted By: gregpeak
Info: The road to the 4WD trailhead is blocked by snow about 3/4 mile below the trailhead. There is not much parking in that area. There are a few pulloffs a little lower for parking.
Posted By: aholle88
Info: Parking available about 1 mile up the road on the left side in the clearing. This is before the road turns uphill and to the right. I made it here in an Impreza, it is dry to there except the last little downhill that has some snow. A couple of 4runner-type vehicles made it further but it is probably not worth it for 1/4 mile.
Posted By: Eagle Eye
Info: The road from the 2WD trailhead to the upper 4WD trailhead is not much different than daway8 described last month. I’ve been able (and was again) to drive about 1 mile to a little side road (loop) on the left side of the road. A new obstacle appeared as I walked down the road at the end of the day...a tree fell right across the road! Its flush with the road. (The water pit and the tree are at approx. 1.2 and 1.5 miles.)
Posted By: daway8
Info: WARNING: the 4WD road looks deceptively easy at the beginning. Don’t be fooled: there was yet another Jeep stuck in the road the day I hiked up it. The road gets progressively worse as you go and turning around becomes less and less of an option. There’s a somewhat ugly little water pit at perhaps 1.5 miles or so up the road which half the road drops into. See photos.
Posted By: spartan0512
Info: Park at the lower trailhead parking lot near the head of the lake - unless you have a 4x4 vehicle WITH snow tires/chains, I would not attempt the 4x4 road. Saw plenty of evidence on my hike up the road to the upper trail head of people digging themselves out. Mud, ice, packed snow that might as well be ice, and drifts all along the 4x4 road - plus a storm is about to hit tomorrow (12/20/1.
Posted By: aholle88
Info: Park at the pavement. Or drive up, and maybe get 1/2 to 3/4 mile shorter hike each way if youre lucky. 100% snow coverage on the road with a decent amount in the center.

There was a Forester stuck today sideways and waiting on a tow past the creek crossing. Tire tracks end around there, but you wont be getting that far or making it out without a heavy duty 4x4 with snows and chains.
Posted By: Kcmartinez22
Info: 4WD only after the 2WD TH. Snow is pretty deep, but melted out in spots during the day.
Posted By: nmek19
Info: not much snow at the lower trailhead but several inches in some spots around the treeline. good boottrail all the way to the summit.
Posted By: jeffth5
Info: Road in pretty decent shape. Couple of muddy spots and the berms require a little clearance. Got a very long wheelbase vehicle up with no problems. I would estimate that any vehicle with 7in of ground clearance could do it right now. 4wd nice but not necessary. No need at all for 4lo. As mentioned elsewhere, turnaround at the TH sign is nearly impossible if other vehicles are there - I recommend parking a bit lower and turn around to point out before you park.
Posted By: jeffrey2212
Info: Dry and solid all the way, except the stream crossing near the upper trailhead. It was running about 6 inches of water, but solid no slip stream bed and fairly smooth approach both sides so one can gun it through. Road overall no issues with stock 3/4 ton 4x4 crew cab pickup (6.4 Hemi BTW). That said, it was hard to tell how much clearance I had to spare. A lower vehicle can make it but would require a spotter in areas. Take it slow. That said, there were only full size pickups at the top. Note, others mentioned getting double parked in at upper TH. Definitely a possibility on a busier day. Choose wisely. Do not drive all the way to the trailhead sign. There is no turn around loop. Once you see the sign up ahead, then turn around and park down the road a bit. There are multiple wide spots at that point.
Posted By: drgdclark
Info: Road to trailhead was in fair shape. Must have four wheel drive with high clearance. There are a dozen berms to move water, a creek crossing and one very rough patch mid-way through.
Posted By: Lithobatiks
Info: There are 2 pretty rough sections of the 4WD road. One of them is a water crossing close to the end. It was about 5 inches deep today. Short distance though. I did fine in my stock wrangler Sport, but did need 4-low.
Posted By: wolfgangstiller
Info: Road is dry all the way to the 4wd trailhead. I found the road in the worst shape I have ever seen since 1996. There are three spots that require a 4wd with low gear and high clearance. The worst is the first and at the start of the road. That said, I had no problem in my Nissan Xterra.
Posted By: gregpeak
Info: Road is clear and dry to the 4WD trailhead
Posted By: bmcqueen
Info: Same as last report - could still get .5 miles past the paved 2WD trailhead pretty easily although the road is snow-covered.
Posted By: Cygnus X1
Info: Can drive about 1/2 mile past 2wd lot.
Posted By: mtnmike
Info: Despite snow on the peak, the 4x4 road is clear and dry all the way. Stream crossing is not too bad...runoff is minimal. Didn’t have any problems at all and based on the forecast it should be good for the next week or more!
Posted By: glennhaygood
Info: Drove up to 4WD TH with no problem in a stock Pathfinder. The creek crossing looks gnarly, but a good 4WD can go right through. In the afternoon, the water volume was definitely up, but still a fairly easy crossing. Have fun!
Posted By: jerky1280
Info: The 4wd road was passable by my AWD CRV this morning. If you are familiar with driving on poor dirt roads this type of vehicle is fine. A creek runs across the road; while it looks scary, it’s easily passable by almost any vehicle and only a foot or two deep.

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