La Plata Peak Out and Back
ElevationAscent: 4,276' 1,303 m
Descent: -4,276' -1,303 m
High: 14,323' 4,366 m
Low: 10,125' 3,086 m
GradeAvg Grade: 17% (10°)
Max Grade: 58% (30°)
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“This is a beautiful class 1 - 2 route up the 5th highest peak in Colorado.”— Karl W
Eventually you'll exit the forest to get some nice views of the Valley and some of the first views of the summit in a while. The trail begins to move away from the creek towards the southeast and gets a little steeper. The patches of trees continue to thin out until you encounter the first set of switch backs. La Plata trail has a few sets of switch backs that are almost humorous in number - please stay on the trail to prevent erosion of the delicate sub-alpine and alpine ecosystems! This first set of switch backs will quickly take you above tree line so keep this spot in mind for any changing weather. At this point the returns to heading south.
You'll come to another set of switch backs through rocky scree (but on a very nice trail) which take you to - that's right - more switch backs. There are amazing alpine flowers in summer along this whole section and numerous marmots, pika, and ptarmigans. At the top of the last set of switch backs you'll be in the Plata Basin. Continue south along the fairly clear trail.
From the Plata Basin you'll enter the final stretch to the summit which is the rockiest and might require a little use of hands for balance. This is pretty standard for the 14ers in the Sawatch Range and really nothing more than class two from my experience. For the most part the trail winds around any challenging parts - keep an eye for the worn path and cairns. The trail follows the ridge so it would be very difficult to get lost even if you lose the actual trail. Finally you'll reach the summit! Enjoy the amazing views which include Mt Elbert to the north and Mt Harvard to the south.
This is an out-and-back trail so just retrace your steps to get back to the trailhead.
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