State High Point
As the highest point in the state, Mt. Elbert attracts a steady stream of hikers. Interestingly, unlike the even larger daily mass heading up Mt. Whitney, California's highest peak (and the only higher peak in the lower 48 states)most of these hikers seem to be enjoying their outing. I think the difference between the two is that while effectively about as high, the simple fact that most hikers going up Elbert choose to make it a day hike instead of trudging up with loads of camping gear makes all the difference.
There is no permit needed. The route is clear and simple. The trail is steep, but the distance is a very reasonable length for a nice day outing.
SummitPost puts the distance at 11.6 miles, yet our GPS units and the comparisons we made with other people hiking along the route all placed the mileage closer to 13 miles...? There is also a secondary Trailhead that may be used to shorten the hike by a couple miles both ways. Again SummitPost notes this road as a high clearance vehicle route while the sign at the beginning of the road states it to be a 4Wheel Drive road. The 20+ vehicles I noted on our hike day were all four wheel drive; I had the only 2 wheel drive truck up the road. If you choose to take this shorter option it is accessed at the lower trailhead. Simply drive up the dirt track adjacent to the trailhead (B125)to it's upper end.
This route is composed of connecting off of the Continental Divide trail. Hiking from the lower trailhead you will reach the upper trailhead parking area after a couple of miles. There, aftr crossing a small footbridge you will intersect the Mount Elbert trail, y-ing off to your left. From here it climbs steeply up a hogback ridge opening up views of the various lakes lying in the valley below. Working your way through aspens and pine the trail softens around 11,500', opening into a really nice area for camping if you have chosen to make this into a backpacking adventure. Leaving this area at 11,700' you are soon above the tree line and enjoying totally open vistas for the remainder of your ridge hike up to the peak.
This is a steep and demanding trail with obvious elevation issues. Summer hiking here has the typical afternoon storms. Plan well. Be prepared. Enjoy!
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.