South Mount Elbert Trail

South Mt. Elbert Trail is 5.8 miles long and can be accessed from the South Elbert Trailhead above Twin Lakes on County Road 24. Four-wheel drive vehicles can travel an additional 1.8 miles on Forest Service Road 125.B during the summer season. During the winter season, this road is impassable to vehicles. South Mt. Elbert Trail forks off the Colorado Trail, which continues to Halfmoon Creek. It is the "easiest" route to Mt. Elbert, but remember, the elevation gain is still 4,800 feet.

This is considered one of the two standard routes for Mt. Elbert. The main route is via the Northeast Ridge and is called the North Mt. Elbert Trail. Either one is good in summer conditions, but the South Mt. Elbert Trail is considered the standard winter route.

The South Mt. Elbert Trail is a great route and a relatively easy hike for someone in reasonable physical condition. The trail is well established and easy to follow. The key to a successful climb is an early start. A sunrise start is ideal to beat the afternoon storms.


For more information, please see the Mount Elbert Information sheet.

At a Glance

Restrictions: Remember, you are within the San Isabel National Forest. Observe all regulations. *  Dogs must be on a leash * Camp 100 feet from water * Organized groups must contact the Forest Service.
Closest Towns: Buena Vista and Leadville, CO
Water: None
Restroom: None
Information Center: For more information on Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics, go to or for more information on Colorado's fourteeners, go to

General Information

General Notes:

Mount Elbert is Colorado's highest peak and the second highest peak in the lower 48 states with an elevation of 14,433 feet. There are five main routes to the summit, the two most popular are the South Mt. Elbert Trail and the North (Main) Mt. Elbert Trail, both being well trodden class one trails. These relatively easy paths to the summit are busy in the summer, attracting all types of hikers and climbers. 


From Leadville, travel 15 miles south on US 24 to State Hwy 82. Travel west 3.75 miles to Lake County Road 24 and turn right. Go north 1.5 miles to the South Elbert Trailhead. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can travel an additional 1.8 miles on FSR 125.B during the summer season, but this road cannot be driven during the winter months.

From the end of FSR 125.B, follow the Colorado Trail, crossing a small stream and passing a small pond on your right. Turn left onto the South Elbert Trail. Follow this trail as it climbs a well-defined ridge to the summit.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Mountain Climbing

General Info:

Permits & Regulations

Thousands of people enjoy climbing Colorado’s peaks. To protect natural resources and preserve the experience for others, please follow Leave No Trace hiking techniques:

Remember, you are within the Mt. Elbert Wilderness. As such, special regulations apply, including:

  • Campfires are prohibited within 100 feet of water and trails;
  • Group size is limited to 15 people per group with a maximum combination of 25, including pack and saddle animals, in any one group within wilderness;
  • Dogs must be under physical restraint of a leash at all times;
  • Bicycles are prohibited;
  • Organized groups are required to obtain approval from the Forest Service, Leadville District Office (719-486-0749);
  • Short-cutting switchbacks is prohibited.

Safety Information

Mountain weather is unpredictable and can change quickly. Be prepared with rain gear and extra layers of warm clothing. Thunderstorms occur frequently in the afternoons, so plan your trip accordingly. Also, keep in mind thunderstorms build rapidly, so keep an eye on the weather and get below timberline at the first sign of a thunderstorm.

Combat altitude sickness by acclimating gradually and staying hydrated. If symptoms (i.e. severe headache, dizziness, or nausea) occur, immediately descend to a lower elevation. At this altitude, sunlight is much more intense, and the air is much drier. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and drink plenty of fluids. Always carry a map and compass, and know how to use them.

Seasonal Information

Snow, rain and lightning storms are common. Daytime temperatures range from 40-70 degrees in the summer months. Be prepared for changing weather. Carry rain gear and extra layers of warm clothing.

Day Hiking


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
9,560 feet Lower TH - 14,433 feet - Summit