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Black Cloud Trail



10.9 mile 17.5 kilometer out and back
60% Runnable


Ascent: 5,023' 1,531 m
Descent: -5,023' -1,531 m
High: 14,387' 4,385 m
Low: 9,716' 2,961 m


Avg Grade: 18% (10°)
Max Grade: 73% (36°)


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Trail shared by Mike Langenkamp

Enjoy the incredible scenery along The Black Cloud Trail, all the way to the summit of Mt. Elbert.

Mike Langenkamp

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife


The southernmost trail up Mt Elbert is the Black Cloud Trail and is certainly one of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on. I can't recommend it enough. Even on a Saturday I only encountered two people on the way up. The wildflowers, views of the Sawatch Range to the south, streams, solitude, and varied landscape all make this a special run.


The trailhead is especially difficult to find and easy to miss. The trail starts in pine forest and aspen groves while climbing steep switchbacks along Black Cloud Creek for about 1.7 miles and 1,700'. The route is very scenic with views of waterfalls, cascading streams, pine, aspen forests, and beautiful clearings.

Eventually the trail flattens out a little at around 11,700' before it steeply switchbacks to gain Mt Elbert's southern ridge. Once on the ridge 2.7 miles in, head north for the highest point, which is unofficially South Elbert (14,134), which is not an official 14er because the saddle between it and Mt Elbert does not provide sufficient prominence.

From South Elbert, follow the ridge northwest until you descend into the saddle. There is a faint trail crossing the saddle across the south ridge of Mt. Elbert, keeping to the right. After traversing the ridge you'll be on the summit of Mt. Elbert.

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Jul 12, 2019
Aryn Stack
I ran large portions of this in the first 2 miles and up on ridge lines. You'll find it tough hiking about mile 3-4, very steep section.Unreal views 11mi — 4h 00m

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 17 votes


in Twin Lakes


  4.2 from 17 votes
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48 Views Last Month
6,662 Since Mar 4, 2015



La Plata peaks above the ridgeline on the Black Cloud Trail.
Apr 22, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO
Below tree line looks exactly like this!
Dec 12, 2019 near Leadvil…, CO
View of La Plata peak from the Black Cloud Trail
Mar 4, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
View from the Black Cloud Trail on the way to Mt Elbert summit. LaPlata Peak in the distance.
Feb 16, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
Looking back down the Black Cloud trail
Mar 4, 2015 near Leadvil…, CO
A lone hiker enjoys the solitude and fall colors on the south approach to Mount Elbert.
Feb 7, 2017 near Leadvil…, CO


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