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Black Cloud Trail

Difficult
 4.3 (20) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

10.9

Miles

17.5

KM

60%

Runnable

14,387' 4,385 m

High

9,716' 2,961 m

Low

5,023' 1,531 m

Up

5,023' 1,531 m

Down

18%

Avg Grade (10°)

73%

Max Grade (36°)

Dogs Unknown

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

Overview

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.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Mike Langenkamp

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 20 votes

#2

in Twin Lakes

#757

Overall
  4.3 from 20 votes
5 Star
45%
4 Star
45%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
10%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#2

in Twin Lakes

#147

in Colorado

#757

Overall
76 Views Last Month
8,732 Since Mar 4, 2015
Difficult

0%
0%
9%
4%
83%
4%

Photos

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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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