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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Clarkson

Colorado 14ers close to Leadville, CO


Mt. Elbert can be seen from the upstairs window of the Silver Rose of Leadville, Colorado

Leadville is the perfect base camp for climbing many of Colorado’s 14ers. Depending on how you keep count, there are either 58, or 54, 14ers to climb. It’s a technical detail that states to qualify as a 14er, one peak must be 300 feet higher than the saddle of the 14er peak next to it. From my standpoint, when I have hiked for hours to the top of a mountain and then must go down, then back up to another 14er, and repeat, I’m so exhausted that I should be rewarded with another notch in my 14er belt.


Here are some short excerpts of the hikes I did on the 14ers in the area which were all hiked in the months between June and September. They are in order of proximity to The Silver Rose of Leadville.


Mt. Elbert


Whitney Gilbert-Clarkson with her son Tristan on top of Mt. Elbert in Colorado

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 10.6 miles, 24-minute drive


There are several 14ers that can be climbed from The Silver Rose of Leadville in a day, albeit a long day. My personal favorite is Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak, standing at 14, 433. The trailhead is easy to find, even in the dark at 5:00 AM. Keep in mind that you want to start your trek early in the summer months to get up and off the mountain before any summer storms with lightning come along.


I hiked this trail with my 14-year-old son, and it took us 7 hours roundtrip. I really enjoyed the trail as it was not too rocky, a rarity for Colorado. The trail is classified as a class 1 trail, which means it's an easy hike on a decent trail, and you won't need to use your hands for any scrambling. There are only six class 1 fourteeners, and this is the only one on my list of those close to Leadville. I'd like to give a big shoutout to 14ers.org, whose organization did a lot of trail rebuilding on Mt. Elbert. Their trail reconstruction work is top-notch and allows everyone to enjoy the trails while mitigating any environmental damage we humans cause from our love of the outdoors.


Mt. Massive


Photo of Mt. Massive as seen driving into Leadville, CO

Photo by David Herrera

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 11 miles, 25-minute drive


Mt. Massive was my first 14er climb, and I remember making the mistake of wearing the wrong hiking boots. By the time I finished the 8-hour climb, I had “massive” blisters on my feet. Always carry moleskin in your first aid kit! Regardless, it was such a pretty hike! I would say that this hike started my 14er craze.


This is another easy trailhead to reach from the Silver Rose. It is considered a class 2 trail, which means it is a little more difficult than a class 1 in that you may need to use your hands for some rock scrambling. The rest of the mountains listed here are all class 2.


Mount Harvard


Nowy images of Mt Harvard in Colorado

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 28.6 miles, 31-minute drive


A group of our friends decided to hike both Harvard and Columbia mountains together. We started off early in the morning, hoping to complete both hikes. However, as we started hiking, the weather began to change. Initially, it seemed fine, but then the temperature started to drop, and by the time we reached the top of Harvard, it had started snowing heavily. The trail turned slippery and icy, and it was freezing cold. Unfortunately, I was unprepared for the weather conditions as I had not expected such weather in August.


This hike taught me a valuable lesson - always be prepared for unexpected weather changes. It's vital to have both rain pants and a rain jacket. Also, carrying hand warmers in the bottom of your pack can be a lifesaver in such situations.


Mount Belford and Mount Oxford


Kit kat the best hiking dog

Kit, the best hiking dog (RIP)

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 26.5 miles, 38-minute drive


These two hikes are beautiful, and it is easy to get to the trailhead. There were three of us and my friend’s dog Kit on this hike. One of our friends was a bit slower, so she decided to go alone and only summit Mt. Belford. Since the trail was crowded, we felt comfortable with her decision since she could easily find someone to help her if necessary. The hike was a long 9-hour day since it was two peaks in one climb.


One of the best things about this hike was the old ghost town of Vicksburg, which we passed through at the beginning of the hike. It had some historical markings that we stopped to read. It was a fantastic glimpse into Colorado's mining history from the late 1800s.


Missouri Mountain


The view from the top of Missouri Mountain Colorado

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 26.5 miles, 39-minute drive


Missouri Mountain is at the same trailhead as Belford and Oxford, and it can get crowded in the summer, so it is best to arrive early to find a parking space. It is a steep hike right away. It is another standard Colorado 14er that takes eight hours to climb and isn’t extremely difficult.


La Plata Peak


Hiker looking out at La Plata Peak while on the trail

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 30.2 miles, 41-minute drive


This was another good bonding hike with my son. We decided to start early at 4:30 AM, which was earlier than the usual 5-5:30 AM start time. The early start time allowed us to be the first to reach the top. The trail was steep, but it was also breathtakingly beautiful. The hike took us the standard eight hours to complete.


One of the things that I find so enjoyable about hiking 14ers is the unique interactions you have with fellow hikers. On this hike, we were fortunate to meet two older gentlemen who were avid hikers. They told us about their hike on Mt. Kilimanjaro, inspiring us to trek the same mountain in Africa six years later.


Mount Princeton


View from the top of Mt. Princeton

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 42.1 miles, 47-minute drive


I hiked this mountain with my girlfriend, and it was one of those hikes where we screwed up on so many fronts. First, we got lost, so we didn’t start our hike until 7:30 am, which is too late when you are trying to avoid lightning. Then, as we were getting our packs situated, we realized we had forgotten our lunches back home! Not too far into our hike, we realized we had parked too early and had added four extra miles to our hike. Ugh!


Neither my friend nor I were enamored with this hike. It was extremely rocky at the top, and there wasn’t enough stunning beauty to compensate for it. The hike took us 8 hours, and this was only because we hitched rides with some folks who had extra room in their off-road vehicles on the ride down. That ended up being a fun way to end this grueling hike.


Mount Columbia


Red cup with Trailside Margaritas printed on the side

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 38.6 miles, 53-minute drive


For a good synopsis of this unusual hike, check out my other blog post, Trail Side Margaritas.


Mount Yale


Three friends on top of Mount Yale in Colorado

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 45.7 miles, 54-minute drive


This was a surreal hike eight-hour hike. It started off great because the wildflowers were blooming everywhere due to the wet spring. However, when we reached the top, we noticed some dark clouds approaching. We decided not to waste any time and headed back down quickly. While descending, we noticed a couple climbing up way later in the day than they should have, and they seemed to be struggling. We asked if they were doing okay, and they mumbled yes, so we continued our fast pace down the mountain.


We reached the car at noon, just as it started to hail violently. We heard thunder and immediately thought of the couple we saw earlier. On our drive back home, we heard the news about a couple who got caught in the weather while hiking Mount Yale. The wife had been struck by lightning and died - it was the same couple we saw earlier. They had come to Colorado for their honeymoon; it was very sad news.


Hiking these 14ers is serious business, and one must be well-prepared. It's essential to know when to turn around and head back down instead of pushing oneself towards the top. It's not easy, but it can help avoid dangerous situations.


Huron Peak


A flowing mountain stream in the summer in Colorado

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 31.2 miles, 58-minute drive


This is a good 14er at the same trailhead as Missouri, Belford, and Oxford, so it has the bonus of seeing the Vicksburg ghost town. It took us less than six hours to hike the whole thing, so it is a good option if you want to hike a 14er in a shorter amount of time.


Mount Antero


A handful of raw aquamarines

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 50.3 miles, 1 hr. 4-minute drive


There is absolutely no reason you should hike this mountain unless you are trying to get into the 14ers club, which dictates that you must hike all of them. This is by far the worst mountain I have had to climb. The mining activities that took place here in the past and that still occur today have ruined the natural beauty of the area. There is no proper trail, just a rocky dirt road shared by many off-road vehicles. We were astounded by the number of vehicles that passed us by. Later, we discovered they were part of a reality TV show called Prospector that was being filmed here.


Despite all this, my girlfriend and I had an interesting experience climbing the mountain. While hiking on the road, we met an actual miner named Jimmy. He was camping out with his dog and searching for aquamarines. He became our buddy and joined us on the hike towards the top. We listened to his rather sad life story. Jimmy had checked out of society and lived alone in the woods on very little money. He sold whatever he could find to survive. Despite his circumstances, he was a generous person and left us with a few aquamarines each when we said goodbye.


Mount of the Holy Cross


A view of the snowy cross of Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado

Photo credit Orion Wiseman

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 36.4 miles, 1 hr. 21-minute drive


I consider this mountain one of my favorites because it is incredibly beautiful. However, unlike Elbert and Massive, reaching the trailhead was not as straightforward. This was mainly because the road leading to it was an 8-mile dirt road, which was challenging to drive on, even with a four-wheel drive vehicle. It's worth noting that this hike is not suitable for beginners. Although it is classified as a class 2 hike, it is quite tiring due to the extra ascents and descents. It took my husband and me nine hours to complete the hike.


Mt. Shavano and Tabeguache Peaks


A foggy top of Mt. Shavano and Tabeguache Peaks

From The Silver Rose of Leadville – 65 miles, 1 hr. 25-minute drive


I hiked these two with my son. We knew the weather was not on our side, so we started our hike early at 4:30 am. Once we got to the first ridge line, we were enveloped in clouds, and it remained this way for the rest of the hike. We couldn’t see anything, which was a little scary since you always think about lightning. We got to the top of Shavano and decided to go for it and continue to Tabeguache. It was cold and wet, but we did it and hurried along the entire time.


When we returned to the truck, it was 1:00 pm, which made for a 9-hour hike. We were a bit tired since this mountain was quite steep! Going for lunch in Salida was a great reward.


Have fun and be safe!


If you plan on climbing a 14er for the first time, it's important to be fully prepared. There is a wealth of information available online that can guide you, from assessing your endurance levels to deciding what to bring and when to embark. If you have any questions about climbing any of these peaks, please don't hesitate to contact me.




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