Many people head to climb Mt Elbert apart from the rest of the 14ers as it’s the tallest peak in the state and rocky mountains overall. They’re often surprised to find the standard route is a Class 1 hike, one of the easiest 14ers to ascend in the state! Here’s everything you need to know to hike this peak, in my Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide.


Mt Elbert Fast Facts

  • Standard Route: Northeast Ridge
  • Trailhead: Mt Elbert (North)
  • Elevation Gain: 4,700 feet
  • Round-Trip Distance: 9.5 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Class 1 Hike
  • Range: Sawatch Range

Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide

You’ll start this hike at the Mount Elbert Trail north trailhead. There are several camping areas here in case you want to get to the area the night before. Start up a good trail that switchbacks up through the forest. Keep right at a point where the Colorado Divide Trail diverts to the left. As you pass through the woods, there are many great spots for dispersed camping if you’re making it an overnight trip. 

Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide

As you approach tree-line, you’ll start to see views of the summit through patches in the forest, along with the rest of the route. Be wary of the false summit that looms above you… the true summit lies a few hundred feet beyond it just out of view.

Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide

Once you reach the top of the first ridge in the photo above, you reach a gentle slope approaching the final crux of the climb. This is a good place to pause for a break, some food and snacks. 

Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide

Finally you’ll start your hike up the crux of the route between 13,500 and 14,000 feet. Work your way up a series of switchbacks and wrap around the right side of the peak, before regaining the summit ridge. You’re only a few hundred feet from the top now.Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide

To reach the summit, follow the ridge to the left, taking care to avoid the steep drop off to your right. The Mt Elbert summit will likely be busy – I recommend walking a bit past the main area to find a quieter place to enjoy a rest before you head back. I hope you found this Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide helpful for your trip!

Mt Elbert Standard Route Guide

Mt Elbert Weather Forecast

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About the Author: Alex Derr

Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.