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Once the West’s wildest and richest boomtown, Leadville was famous for flamboyant characters like Doc Holliday, Kit Carson, and Buffalo Bill Cody. Today, this quaint town at the headwaters of the Arkansas River is a bustling gateway to some of Colorado’s sweetest high peaks. Elbert climbers typically ply the 5.5-mile (one-way) Black Cloud Trail, which passes through a gorgeous stand of aspens before turning northeast onto the peak’s expansive flank. There’s no exposure or technical terrain to slow you down–though thin air and four false summits lengthen the day. Atop the tallest of Colorado’s 54 14,000-foot peaks, a magnificent panorama awaits: snow-capped behemoths in the Rocky Mountain, Sawatch, Mosquito, Sangre de Cristo, and Elk ranges.
Elevation: 14,433 feet
Contact: Leadville Ranger District, San Isabel National Forest, (719) 486-0749
USGS Topos: Mount Elbert; Mount Massive
Eat: Quincy’s, Leadville, (719) 486-9765
Sleep: Elbert Creek Campground, Leadville Ranger District, (719) 486-0749
Gear: Bill’s Sport Shop, Leadville, (719) 486-0739