Mt Elbert Northeast Ridge Standard

Lake County, Colorado

Elevation Gain3,913ft
Trailhead Elevation14,413ft
Elevation Min/Max10574/14413ft
Elevation Start/End14413/14413ft

Mt Elbert Northeast Ridge Standard

Mt. Elbert Northeast Ridge (Standard) is a hiking trail in Lake County, Colorado. It is within San Isabel National Forest. It is 3.3 miles long and begins at 14,413 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,913 feet. The trail ends near Mount Elbert (elevation 14,426 feet). There is also an information guidepost near the end of the trail. This trail connects with the following: Colorado Trail (Segment 11), Mt. Elbert Southeast Ridge, Mt. Elbert East Ridge and Mt. Elbert Box Creek Couliours.

Mt. Elbert Northeast Ridge (Standard) Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Summit Hikes in Colorado (Wilderness Press)
James Dziezynski
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"Welcome to Colorado’s highest mountain. Elbert is a gentle giant whose lofty heights are also tops in all the Rocky Mountains. This king of 14ers is one of Colorado’s best hikes. Humble Mount Elbert has little fanfare outside of the Centennial State, despite being the second highest mountain in the lower 48 states (and the 21st highest in the entire US, including Alaska). Only Mount Whitney (14,494 feet) in California is higher. Elbert’s northeast ridge is a surprisingly moderate hike (roughly 8 to 9 miles round trip, and 5 to 7 hours of hiking) and is typical of the rounded, giant Sawatch mountains. Why Climb It? The obvious draw to Mount Elbert is its height. The gentle northeast ridge that the Mount Elbert Trail follows is a true classic. The lower sections weave through a pristine pine forest and then switchback up to treeline, where Elbert’s majesty is revealed."
Best Dog Hikes Colorado (Falcon Guides)
Bob D’Antonio, Maryann Gaug, Stewart Green, Linda B. Mullally, and Tracy Salcedo-Chourré.
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"When first seeing Mount Elbert from afar, you might wonder about its “highest in Colorado” status. Looming above the Arkansas Valley, which already lies at 10,000 feet, the elevation gain does not seem dramatic. North of Mount Elbert across Halfmoon Creek, the aptly named Mount Massive (14,421 feet) stands a mere 12 feet lower. Mount Elbert is the highest point in Colorado and second highest in the Lower 48. The North Mount Elbert Trail climbs steeply through lodgepole, then spruce-fir forest and across alpine tundra. The worst parts of hiking Mount Elbert are its false summits and wind. The best parts include tremendous views and a feeling of great accomplishment. It’s imperative to leave no later than 6:30 a.m. to avoid thunderstorms and lightning. Allow at least four to six hours for the hike to the top. Bring plenty of water and energy food, for yourself and your dog."
Colorado's Incredible Backcountry Trails (Rincon Publishing)
David Day
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"Mount Elbert is not the most scenic fourteener in Colorado, but it can certainly hold its own-and it does happen to be the highest mountain in the state! The peak was named in 1871 after Samuel Elbert, the territorial governor of Colorado, and it was first climbed 3 years later by members of the Hayden Survey Expedition. At that time no one realized that Mount Elbert was the highest peak in Colorado. That honor was mistakenly bestowed upon Pikes Peak and later upon Mount Massive. We now know, however, that the stately Mount Elbert is not only the highest peak in Colorado, but it is the second loftiest summit outside Alaska in the entire United States. Only Mount Whitney in California is higher."

Mt. Elbert Northeast Ridge (Standard) Trip Reports

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A good, easy fourteen to climb. Great view from top, nice alpine meadows.

The approach from the trail head to the tree line was a bit obvious.

Stay away on weekends - it can get crowded.
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First and foremost, if you are from somewhere like say, Florida - this is a beast - hike to the treeline where there is some really choice camping and then summit the next day. This can be done in one day, but you better start at about 4:30 - 5:00 in the AM to summit before noon and get off the mount before the storms roll in. It's a very challenging hike with awe inspiring views that make the effort worth it. The north trail is supposed to be easier but darned if we could find it. And we left too late in the day and could not summit - bad info, should have come here first. All in all still an awesome hike! Trekking poles came in very handy for the steepness.
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We did Black Cloud Trail then over South Elbert. We experienced the very cold weather with snow grains and some 40 - 50 mph winds that didn't last too long. Very steep trail which wasn't bad on the climb but tricky to descend.
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Southeast route (standard route)
Started off at Sunrise (around 6 a.m.) - Elevation gain starts immediately and stays continuous the whole route. The last 1.5 miles or so are quite rocky and the steapest part of the trail. Left the Summit around 12:30 and got caught in a thunderstorm that produced horizontal hail & about 50 m.p.h. gusts. Other than that it was a great hike.
Definitely prepare yourself with plenty of water (I took about 4 liters, and drank almost all of it, and that was with 50 degree weather, you'll definitely need that much water or more in warmer weather. This is a gorgeous hike with amazing 360 degree views from the summit. This was my first hike over 6,000 feet of elevation and I could feel the difference in elevation, make sure to TRAIN & PREPARE for a hike of this type!
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Great hike with terrific views from Colorado's highest peak. The road to the trailhead is very nice and any vehicle can make the trip. The views to the north of Mt. Massive are breathtaking and on a clear day many other Colorado 14ers are clearly visible.

Mt. Elbert Northeast Ridge (Standard) Photos

Trail Information

Lake County
Nearby City
Skill Level
San Isabel National Forest, Leadville Ranger District, Leadville; (719) 4860749;
Local Contacts
USGS Mount Elbert and Mount Massive; USFS San Isabel National Forest map; Nat Geo Trails Illustrated 127 Aspen/Independence Pass; Latitude 40˚ Summit County
Local Maps

Trail Log