Mt. Elbert (South) Trailhead


Range: Sawatch Range
Coordinates: 39.09933, -106.36714
14ers: Mt. Elbert
Elevation: 10,500'
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Road Difficulty

Easy 4WD, good clearance recommended. 3   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD paved to the lower (main) TH. 4WD dirt to 10,400' at the upper TH.

Driving Directions

From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west toward Twin Lakes. Drive about 4 miles and turn right onto the 24 road. Drive 1.2 miles up a hill to the main trailhead parking area (paved) on the left. This is the lower trailhead and 2WD vehicles should park here. Continue 50 feet past the lower TH and turn left on Forest Service road 125.1B (4WD). From here it's 1.8 miles to the upper trailhead. Walk or drive up the 4WD road to reach the start of the trail.

Along the 4WD road there are several pull-offs and camping spots. Near 0.5 mile there's usually rough section of road but most 4WD vehicles should be able to get past it. Near 1.6mi, cross a small stream. Continue to a parking area with information kiosk at 1.8mi. This is the trailhead.

Winter Access

Closed at the start of the 4WD road.

More Info

Parking: Parking for about 20 cars at the lower, 2WD trailhead. Some pull-offs along the 4WD road and then parking for maybe 15 vehicles at the 4WD trailhead.
Camping: Dispersed camping along the 4WD road and a campground down the road from the 2WD trailhead.
Restrooms? No
Fees? No
Trailhead added by BillMiddlebrook
Status Updates 
Posted By: ellenmseb
Info: There’s currently a small tree blocking the road just after the creek crossing. A saw should make quick work of it. Otherwise extremely subaruable or maybe even sedanable if you’re bold.
Posted By: BillMiddlebrook
Info: Drove all the way to the upper trailhead at 1.8mi. There are two holes/rut spots along the road that require 4wd and good clearance. The more difficult one is at 0.5mi and the other is at 1.0mi. I have a full-size pickup and moved past both without issue.
Posted By: gregpeak
Info: I was able to drive within 100 yards of the 4WD trailhead. There was a snowbank there that somebody had driven through and made it to the trailhead, but I parked just below it. It will probably be melted in a few days,
Posted By: themadgadder
Info: No problem driving my stock 2017 Honda CR-V to the 4WD trailhead this morning. The road is free of snow, and the stream crossing was manageable.
Posted By: RWSchaffer
Info: The 24 road leading to the 2WD parking, and the 2WD parking itself, were both plowed but with significant icy stretches. The 4WD road to the trailhead held several inches of well packed snow and was not passable to wheeled vehicles; wheeled vehicle tracks made it no farther than about 100 feet from the 24 road (pictured). Plan on parking at the 2WD parking and walking to the trailhead.
Posted By: Jstodda
Info: Approach to 2WD trailhead was ok. Easy approach but icy the following day due to snowstorm. 4WD trail pretty deep with the snow on the 26th.
Posted By: 14ercooper
Info: While there’s technically no gate or anything blocking the road, it’s buried in enough snow that you’re probably not getting any vehicle up there (and the one person who seems to have tried only made it like 50 yards, if even).
Posted By: summit21
Info: Was able to get within .30 miles of upper 4WD TH (my buddy’s RAV4 TRD Pro). Creek has about 3-4 inches of water and probably could have made it all the way but he didn’t want to push it. Just a couple of rough spots otherwise no issues.
Posted By: serveJesusChrist
Info: The river crossing is about 5 inches deep. I made it without any problems in a 2WD Chevy Suburban.
Posted By: codyli34
Info: 4WD trailhead was accessed with no problems in a 2014 Nissan Rogue AWD. Road shouldn’t be an issue for most vehicles with a decent amount of clearance. Stream crossing was not an issue. Lot was full around 6am, though several vehicles managed to park in less than ideal places around the trailhead.
Posted By: OilyOrca
Info: Access to 4WD drive trailhead was manageable, single creek crossing was comfortable in a light SUV.
Posted By: aldsw
Info: No problem getting my Subaru Outback up / down the 4wd road to the South Elbert trailhead but word of warning that the lot is extremely small. We drive up Saturday afternoon and all camp spots were taken by 6pm. There were still la couple parking spots left but the lot was completely full by 6am on Sunday.
Posted By: kimbuk2
Info: Clear 4x4 road all the way to the trailhead. One creek crossing, unsure of clearance needed for it but a few Subarus were parked at the top. I got there in a non-lifted Land Cruiser with KO2 tires.

FYI the placard at the TH states the trail is 3.85 miles each way, but it’s more like 5.50 miles (aka 14ers beta is accurate)
Posted By: mightycuine
Info: As others have said, this is doable by most cars with decent clearance. Got my 2WD Hyundai Tucson (6.7") with worn all-season tires to the TH with no scraping. Creek was 4-6" deep on 6/11 in the evening.
Posted By: Pedro F
Info: As gregpeak notes, road is totally clear of snow to the 4WD TH. Road is in pretty good condition, only a handful of mildly rowdy spots, otherwise smooth with no washboarding. Creek crossing almost a non-event at ~15’ width and less than 6" depth. Any vehicle with AWD and Subaru-caliber clearance should have no problem making it; indeed, there were two Subies at the TH the day I was there. For comparison, I found this easier than the 4WD portion of the N. Halfmoon Creek TH road.
Posted By: gregpeak
Info: The road is clear all the way to the 4wd trailhead.
Posted By: heathcliff
Info: On April 10, the road was dry about halfway up, 0.9 miles in - thats where we parked. Then hit intermediate snow that turned to slush/mud in the afternoon. Upper TH and last 0.2 mile was completely snow covered. A little clearance needed, but overall an easy 4wd road relative to other 14ers, any full SUV or truck should be fine once its dry.
Posted By: Aphelion
Info: 4WD and good tires will get you to within ~0.4 miles of the upper trailhead without difficulty, but don’t bother trying to get much past the water crossing. The next slope beyond it will almost certainly require chains, and is blocked by a fallen tree at the top.
Posted By: EJDenver
Info: Took the 4WD road to the East Mt.Elbert trailhead from the twin lakes area. (the sign at this trailhead says S.Mount Elbert trail but it’s called the East Route on this website/the map)

Road is clear of snow, a bit rocky in places (standard). There was a fallen tree branch sticking a small bit into the road but can easily be maneuvered around. There is one spot about 3/4 of the way to the 4WD trailhead that is fairly rocky/runout right before a stream crosses the road. Water is roughly 6" deep, running quickly but we did it in a Tacoma no problem and saw Subaru foresters at the trailhead as well. These areas may take some maneuvering but if you’re careful clearance should not be an issue. Just make sure your water bottles are closed, its a bit of a bumpy ride.

Plenty of dispersed camping along the way.
Posted By: jmanner
Info: Dry all the way to the upper trailhead. Its definitely required awd, but the road isnt too rough.
Posted By: angry
Info: Fresh snowfall today but still accessible to the 2wd TH.
Posted By: Jimmy Jay
Info: Just did a recon run for an oh-dark-thirty climb tomorrow morning, and the 4wd road is good all the way up. Didn’t need 4wd at all, but high clearance is a must and good approach/departure angles. Saw a Chevy Equinox stopped just before the river crossing near the end, but it’s only a few inches deep and he could have made it up farther.
Posted By: tjhoff
Info: Was able to get a 2WD sedan about half a mile from the 4WD TH. Flat area with room for about 3 cars.
Posted By: hopkinds
Info: Easy 4wd all the way to upper trail head. No snow on the road. Most high clearance vehicles should have no trouble. Deep ruts from previous years have been smoothed out. My jeep wrangler had no trouble.
Posted By: gregpeak
Info: The road to the 4WD trailhead is blocked by snow about 3/4 mile below the trailhead. There is not much parking in that area. There are a few pulloffs a little lower for parking.
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