La Plata Peak: 14,336 ft, 14er Rank #5/53

La Plata Peak - featured on Colorado 14ers Map 6 of 16 - is another massive peak in the Sawatch Range. Located just south of the giant Mount Elbert, La Plata peak is the northernmost 14er in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness - home more 14ers than any other wilderness area in Colorado. Though not as popular as Mount Elbert to the north, La Plata Peak is still fairly popular due to its proximity to population centers, ease of access and a relatively straightforward Class 2 (more difficult hiking) standard route.

La Plata is Spanish for "silver", and this silver peak is so named in 1874 due to the numerous silver deposits in the area. Once again, the first recorded ascent is awarded to members of the Hayden Survey, as with so many other 14ers in Colorado.

La Plata Peak

La Plata Peak at Dusk, by Jonathan C. Wheeler, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Though the standard route to the summit of La Plata is a Class 2 route, there are some other more challenging options for the more adventurous mountaineer. The standard route - the most popular - leads south off Colorado Hwy 82 across the South Fork of Lake Creek and begins a slow climb along La Plata Gulch. After a couple of miles, the trail veers left/east away from the creek and begins to slowly climb the southern flank of La Plata Peak. At 4.3 miles from the trailhead, the trail intersects the route from the south and is only 0.1 miles to the summit from that point. This makes for a 4.4 mile one-way trip with an elevation gain of 4,160' from the trailhead.

One can also approach La Plata Peak from the south via a high-clearance road off of Chaffe County Road 390. From this trailhead (10750' elevation), the trail begins a gentle climb northwest before leaving the old road up to Blackbear Mine (find the trail on the left just as the Blackbear Trail switchbacks to the right/east. From there the trail climbs northwest along a gulch before crossing a stream and climbing up to the ridge. This Class 2 route follows the ridge northwards and somewhat east before joining the standard route 0.1 miles below the summit. This route is 3.6 miles each way with a total elevation gain of 3,590'.

Near La Plata Peak Summit

Hikers near La Plata Peak Summit, by Robertbody at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, Link

Perhaps the most adventurous way path to the top of La Plata Peak is via the Ellingwood Ridge Route, which is a long, Class 3/4 (hard scrambling, simple climbing) approach along the rocky ridge to the north and east of the summit. This primitive route splits off from the standard route from the north, climbs up to the ridge and follows up and down along the ridge line for a couple of miles before reaching the summit. This is an advanced route and should not be attempted by casual peakbaggers.

La Plata Peak is a typical Sawatch Range 14er that be can climbed from the north or south, making it well-situated for those who want to do Mount Elbert and La Plata (north) - on separate days, but with very close trailheads - or for those who want to do La Plata along with the 14ers to the south (e.g. Huron, Missouri, Belford Oxford) - again on separate days. However you choose to attain the summit of La Plata Peak, remember to be prepared for a high alpine hike by bringing plenty of water, respecting both weather conditions and your own limitations and by bringing your 14ers Maps along with you. La Plata Peak is one of two fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 6 of 16.

Directions to Trailheads:

From the north: About 15 miles south of the center of Leadville on US Hwy 24, turn left/west onto Colorado Hwy 82 towards Twin Lakes, CO. Stay on this road for 14.5 miles to the trailhead turn-off on the left/south. 

From the south: About 19 miles south of the center of Leadville, CO on US Hwy 24, turn left/west onto County Road 390, just north of Clear Creek Reservoir. Follow this road for 11.7 miles, right as County Road 390 takes a sharp 90 degree turn to the left/south.  Instead of following County Road 390 here, take the road that goes straight (County Road 390A). The Blackbear Trailhead / La Plata Southwest Ridge Trailhead is 1.75 miles up on the left/south (trail leaves to the right/north). This road can be rough and is suggested for high clearance vehicles.

Feature image: "La Plata Peak" (CC BY 2.0) by Adam Reiner


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