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Adventures with Alan meets Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado

Mt. Elbert - KOAA
Mount Elbert Rating
Posted at 5:37 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-02 20:55:20-04

In our exclusive series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.

Colorado is known for its sweeping mountain vistas and long hikes. Some of the most popular ones are the fourteeners, which are mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet.

Colorado has the most of any state in the country, with 58, and this will be my second one after summiting Mt. Sherman last year.

Our hike to the tallest point in all of Colorado begins around 6:45 am, and it's a little chilly outside.

I've brought a companion, Hannah Dickens, along for this adventure.

She works as a newscast director at News5, and Mt. Elbert will be her seventh 14er summit.

Also joining us is News5 photojournalist and 14er expert, the GOAT, Carl Winder. He's hiked to the top of 14ers more than 30 times.

Because the hike along North Mt. Elbert Trail covers nearly 4,500 vertical feet, our trek to the top actually starts below the treeline.

In this section, we climb a steady incline, along with several dozen steps built into the trail. Thankfully, it's well maintained and easy to follow.

Still in the trees, we reach a valley, which is nearing the halfway point.

From here, we can see what appears to be the summit of Mt. Elbert way off in the distance. But spoiler alert, that's one of several false summits on Mt. Elbert!!

Shortly after the valley, we come to treeline. At this elevation, trees have a hard time growing because the air is so thin, and for adventurers in the high country, the altitude can make breathing more difficult and labored.

Luckily, it's a bright and beautiful day, and there's not much wind to contend with.

As we get closer to the top, short stops become more frequent. This allows us to take advantage of the scenery, catch a few breaths and re-hydrate.

The last part of the hike is the most physically demanding. It's not super technical, but relentlessly uphill.

Finally, after multiple false summits, Elbert's peak comes into view, and moments of doubt are replaced with sheer excitement.

At the same time, I start to feel a little dizzy and nauseous. That's the elevation getting to me.

After a few more steps we make it to the top of Mt. Elbert, elevation 14,438 feet above sea level.

Up here, we're joined by a couple of dozen hikers, enjoying these incredible views of the Rocky Mountains.

After a quick break, we make our way back down, where I continue to struggle with altitude sickness until we pass below treeline.

To combat it, I take frequent breaks and drink a lot of water.

By the time we make it to the trailhead, we clock in at 7 hours and can check another cool Colorado experience off of our list.

Now it's time to rate our latest adventure.

Mount Elbert Rating
Mount Elbert trail rating guide

The hike to Mt. Elbert is long and you'll feel every step of the 11.5-mile journey.

The popular hiking app AllTrails has it listed at 10.4, but it was longer according to our GPS devices.

When it comes to difficulty, it's not for everyone. On top of being a haul, the trail covers from top to bottom 4,468 feet. It ranks 5 out of 5.

The scenery is second to none, with amazing views of neighboring Mt. Massive, Twin Lakes and high mountain peaks in every direction. 5 out of 5.

For fun level, I had to give this hike 4 out of 5. The experience is challenging and takes a toll on the body.

My final score, it's a 5 out of 5.

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