Emerald/Iowa Combo
Peaks Included: Emerald PeakIowa Peak
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 Class 2 
Risk Factors:
Rockfall Potential: Moderate  
Trailhead:Missouri Gulch
Start:9,650 feet
Summit:13,904 feet
Total Gain:5,900 feet
RT Length:14.0 miles
Last Updated:10/2016


From Leadville: Drive 20 miles south on U.S. 24 and turn right on the Chaffee County 390 road.
From Buena Vista: Drive 14.5 miles north on U.S. 24 and turn left on the Chaffee County 390 road.
On the 390 road, drive 7.5 miles to a sign for the Missouri Gulch trailhead. Turn left and drive down into the large parking area. There are restrooms here.


Start down the Missouri Gulch Trail, cross the bridge over Clear Creek and continue into the forest. Hike over 1/4 mile and climb a bunch of switchbacks through the steep forest. Leave the switchbacks at 10,400' and continue south along Missouri Gulch. At 10,800', turn left and locate a small, weak log bridge where the trail crosses the creek - #1. Duck through some bushes, turn right and hike south along the gulch for almost 1/2 mile to reach the remnants of an old shack. Walk a bit farther to exit the forest, near 11,300'. Continue into Missouri Gulch on the excellent trail. At 11,600', stay right at the Mt. Belford trail junction (#2) and continue south (#3) for another 1.5 miles to the Missouri Mountain trail junction, near 12,600' - #4. Stay left and walk another 3/4 mile to reach Elkhead Pass - #5, #6 and #7.

From the Pass, look southwest over Missouri Basin (yes, you transition from Missouri Gulch to Missouri Basin) to locate Emerald Peak and Iowa Peak - #8. Descend 200-300 feet toward the basin before leaving the trail to begin your traverse toward Emerald - #9 and #10. Continue to a large, flat area east of Iowa (#11) and pass an unnamed lake to locate a ramp which provides easy access to Emerald's north slopes - #12 and #13. Ascend the ramp and turn right near 13,000' to see the remaining route up Emerald - #14 and #15. Follow the left side of the Emerald's north slopes (#16, #17 and #18), traverse right a short distance to bypass a rocky section (#19) and walk up the final pitch to reach the summit - #20 and #21.

To add Iowa Peak, retrace your route on Emerald's northeast ridge (#22) but when you reach ~13,500', angle north toward the large, open Emerald-Iowa saddle - #23 and #24. Cross the saddle and continue 500' up Iowa's mellow south slopes to reach the summit - #25, #26, #27 and #28. For your descent, the best option is to return to the Iowa-Emerald saddle and the ramp, near 13,000'. If you're in need of a shorter descent, hike north from Iowa's summit until you're almost to the Iowa-Missouri saddle and drop east down a loose, Class 2 slope to return to the point where you traversed from Elkhead Pass. This option is shown as a dotted line on the topo map.



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Route Photos  Print Options

Photo #1
#1: Crossing Missouri Gulch, at 11,000’.
Photo #2
#2: The Mt. Belford and Missouri Gulch junction - stay right.
Photo #3
#3: On the Missouri Gulch trail, hiking south toward 14er Missouri Mountain.
Photo #4
#4: At the Missouri Mountain trail junction, stay left for Elkhead Pass.
Photo #5
#5: At the south end of Missouri Gulch.
Photo #6
#6: Approaching Elkhead Pass.
Photo #7
#7: At Elkhead Pass (13,200’), looking southwest toward Emerald Peak.
Photo #8
#8: Drop over the west side of the pass and continue on the trail.
Photo #9
#9: Near 13,000’, leave the trail and sidehill southwest to avoid losing too much elevation.
Photo #10
#10: Continue south/southwest toward Emerald Peak.
Photo #11
#11: Approaching the lake northeast of Emerald.
Photo #12
#12: South of the lake, locate a ramp which provides easy access to Emerald.
Photo #13
#13: Near 12,900’, ascending the ramp.
Photo #14
#14: Near 13,000’.
Photo #15
#15: Emerald’s north slopes.
Photo #16
#16: Near 13,200’.
Photo #17
#17: Continue along the northeast ridge.
Photo #18
#18: Easy terrain.
Photo #19
#19: A rocky section, near 13,800’.
Photo #20
#20: Final pitch.
Photo #21
#21: On Emerald’s summit, looking south.
Photo #22
#22: Leaving Emerald, with Iowa Peak in view.
Photo #23
#23: Descending to the Emerald-Iowa saddle.
Photo #24
#24: Emerald-Iowa saddle.
Photo #25
#25: Iowa’s mellow south slopes.
Photo #26
#26: Approaching the summit.
Photo #27
#27: On Iowa’s summit, looking north to 14er Missouri Mountain.
Photo #28
#28: On Iowa, looking south to Emerald.
Photo #29

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