Mt. Elbert – The Tallest Peak in Colorado

Join Apex Mountain School for a hike up the tallest Fourteener in Colorado!

One of the most classic Colorado manias is hiking “Fourteeners.” With over 50 Fourteeners in Colorado there are plenty to choose from. If you’re going to hike a Fourteener, why not start with the tallest one? While Mt. Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado; it is also one of the most accessible hikes. 

Whether you are an experienced hiker looking to tick off another peak or new to the hiking realm, Mt. Elbert has an option for you. There are three trails we can take to reach the summit, each one with its own difficulty.

Hike a Fourteener at 89

Mt. Elbert is great for any skill level or age, even into your 80’s!

Photo: Erik Gomez


If you aren’t ready to take on the high mountain environment and summit we also offer Mt. Elbert Nature Hikes. You can get a taste of Twin Lakes and Mt. Elbert without committing to a summit attempt. Whether you go for the summit or decide to explore the area the most important part of any hike is returning to safety. One could start the hike just to get their feet wet (hopefully not literally) and see how their body reacts. Maybe you just want to leave the treeline and say hi to our friendly neighborhood marmot “Marmot Mike.” Whatever your desires are, Apex can accommodate. 

Marmot Mike

“Marmot Mike”

Photo: Erik Gomez


The North Mount Elbert trail starts directly across from a nearby campground. The first three miles are below tree line in beautiful aspen groves and pine forests. Hiking through the forest is especially dark; it is important to bring a headlamp. Hiking this stretch before or as the sun rises makes the view more impactful when you finally leave the tree line. You are welcomed to the high mountain setting with a beautiful broad sunrise over Twin Lakes and Mt. Elbert Forebay. 


Leaving the Treeline

Leaving the treeline with a beautiful view of the Twin Lakes. 

Photo: Erik Gomez

After leaving the trees we approach what could be the most technical part of the hike. There are loose rocks and it is fairly steep. The key to success in this terrain is taking your time and watching every step. It is important to move cautiously to prevent injury. We tend to take plenty of breaks during this section to make sure we are fully awake. If we are awake, our body and mind coordinate and we can pay full attention to every step. 

Rests on Mt. Elbert

Rests are key!

Photo: Erik Gomez


This technical steep slope could be the hardest portion of the hike, physically. While we are battling with the hardest physical part of the hike we have the hardest mental part in the back of our minds. There are two visible false summits during the hike. A false summit  appears to be the highest point of the mountain while hiking. From the hiker’s view the true summit is not visible. The false summit gives false hope. We believe that we are closer to the summit than we actually are. 

The first false summit is visible from the tree line. It is important to remember during the steep slope that it is not the summit. Upon arriving at the first false summit the second false summit is visible. The second false summit is not as bad as the first false summit as it is not far from the true summit.

Mt. Elbert Summit

Mt. Elbert Summit 14,440 feet. 

Photo: Erik Gomez

Upon arrival we will celebrate and take a few pictures. At this moment, it is crucial to remember that the most important part of the hike has yet to come: the descent. After hiking to the summit we can be tired both physically and mentally. It is easy to get ahead of ourselves in this worn out state. If we don’t pay attention we can step wrong and be exposed to injury. Colorado is also known for its afternoon thunderstorms. It is pivotal that we reach at least tree line before the risk of lightning appears. 

The greater part of our trips that head out to Mt. Elbert are clients who have already made an attempt at the summit. Many times these clients are experienced hikers who are not familiar with this trail and do not arrive to the summit with enough time to return safely. It can be reassuring to have a seasoned guide who routinely visits the mountain to accompany. 

Returning from Mt. Elbert

It’s important to get down to a lower altitude before those clouds roll in!

Photo: Erik Gomez


As stated earlier the most important part of any hike is returning to safety and enjoying a cold beer (or lemonade). When we return to the cars, often we grab something to eat at the Twin Lakes Inn conveniently located in the town of Twin Lakes. If we need to grab something fast and return to Vail quickly sometimes we will opt for Punky’s Mobile Food Trailer, also located in Twin Lakes.  

If you manage to defeat the two false summits and arrive at the true summit or if you stay in the aspen groves Mt. Elbert is a great destination to add to your list of things to do this summer. No matter what your hiking experience or fitness level our guides will make sure you have an epic day at Colorado’s highest 14er. 

Great Day at Mt. Elbert

The best part about visiting Mt. Elbert is returning to the base and enjoying a delicious meal.

Photo: Erik Gomez