La Plata Peak (14,336′), Sawatch Range
La Plata Peak, in the middle of the Sawatch Range, is known for it’s distinctive Ellingwood Ridge, popular among climbers. The Northwest Ridge trail starts from Highway 82 and follows the northern ridge that divides the La Plata basin from La Plata Gulch. There are several other routes to the summit, such as the Southwest Ridge. “La Plata” is Spanish for “The Silver”, a reference to the many silver deposits in the area.
The Sawatch Mountain Range is home to fourteen other 14,000′ peaks, such as Huron Peak, Mt Antero, Missouri Mountain, and the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mt Elbert.
- Trailhead: La Plata Peak (Northwest Ridge)
- Round trip: 9.25 miles / 14.9 km
- Elevation: 10,000′ – 14,336′ / 3,048 m – 4,370 m
- County: Chaffee
- Agency: U.S. Forest Service
- Nat’l Forest: San Isabel
GPS Route with Elevation
Know when to turn around. Turned around near 12,000′ due to heavy winds and low visibility, despite what initially appeared to be a picture perfect day.
From the trailhead hike east into the woods crossing South Fork Lake Creek. Turn right after the bridge and hike a small distance to cross La Plata Gulch on a smaller bridge. Head right and reach a small clearing almost 100 yards after the bridge crossing. In the clearing, there is a smaller trail that heads off to the east – stay right on the main trail. Eventually the trail has log and stone steps making a steep climb through the forest.
Climb briefly to a small, level area above 12,000′ where you will find a large square boulder near the trail. Turn left and climb to the northwest ridge. Next hike to the base of a large buttress and follow the trail as it turns right and climbs around to the west side of the ridge. If you lose the trail, turn left and climb directly up to the top of the ridge. As you near the top ,curve around to the west side, turn left and follow the trail to the summit.