A steep but quick run up Colorado's second highest peak.”
— Tyler Prince
This trailhead is generally closed in the winter, with the closest parking 8 miles below.
Note: Even though land management says dogs are to be leashed, you'll see many dogs and few leashes.
This steep route allows runners to cut 5 miles and many hours off of a Mt. Massive summit. While nontechnical, the Southwest Slopes route is without a doubt one of the steepest class 1 routes up any Colorado mountain.
Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildlife
Need to Know
While an easy 14er, this is still a long run. Be ready to spend the better part of the day on the mountain, and bring plenty of water. During monsoon season, make sure you're off the summit by noon at the latest. With a solid 2 miles above treeline, it's a long way to cover if you get stuck in a storm.
Average hikers should allow about 6 hrs. round trip.
While the trail is largely free of rocks and routes, this trail's steep grade makes running quite a challenge. Not for the faint-of-heart. Fast trail runners should expect 3 hrs round trip.
Using any 2WD car, drive south on 24 out of Leadville. Just as you're leaving town, turn right onto WB Colorado 300. Drive 0.8 miles and turn left onto County Road 11; there should be signs for Halfmoon Creek. In another 1.2 miles turn right onto a dirt road, following signs to Halfmoon Creek. This TH is accessible to any car, but the dirt road does have some potholes and sharp turns, so pay attention! Pass the North Mt. Elbert
Trailhead in about 5 miles and continue onwards. Pass the Mt. Massive Trail
on the right in another 0.3 miles. From here, a 2WD car might suffice, but 4WD or at least high clearance is recommended. Drive 2 miles on a narrow, bumpy road before coming to a junction with 110J. Stay straight, and drive another 0.5 miles up steep road before coming to a small trailhead on the right.
Start up North Halfmoon Lakes Trail
on an excellent, gradual trail with few rocks or roots. In about 1.5 miles weave along the creek to your left and through some willows before coming to a junction with the Mt. Massive/North Halfmoon Trail. Turn right and run up some steep rocks and out of the trees at 11,300 ft.
Head to the right through the boulder field and continue up a steep but excellent dirt trail, coming to a second boulder field around 11,700 ft. The trail here becomes harder to follow. Again, stay to the right, this time exiting at about 12,000 ft. Turn left around a large rock pile at 12,300, continuing up excellent trail. At 12,900 ft the grade becomes extremely steep as you continue along a set of switchbacks.
From here the trail becomes rocky as well. Stay to the left to avoid climbing one of Massive's offshoot summits instead of its highest point. Come to a notch at 14,000 ft, staying just to the right of the rocks making up the summit ridge. Continue up Mt. Massive Trail
along the rocky ridge, traversing the various points and false summits of the massif. After a short class 2+ scramble along an obvious summit ridge, the incline flattens out. Walk along a rocky path until you finally reach the summit. Your last 0.5 miles will be above 14,000 ft.
Many runners may feel they're cheating unless they also summit South Massive, North Massive, and Massive Green. This makes for a long day, so if you're one of these gluttons for punishment, be prepared!
Flora & Fauna
Upon breaking through coniferous forest you'll find yourself among wildflowers, pika, and overly friendly marmots.
History & Background
Mt. Massive, the second highest peak in Colorado, also has the most summits of any 14er. The "Massive Massif" boasts underlying summits South Massive, North Massive, and Massive Green. It has more area above 14,000 ft than any other Colorado 14er, second only to Mt. Rainier in the lower 48 states.
During the Great Depression some rather zealous surveyors got into it over whether Mt. Massive or Mt. Elbert
was the highest peak in the state. This led Mt. Massive supporters to start building tall cairns on the summit, only for Mt. Elbert
proponents to promptly demolish them.