La Plata Peak, La Plata Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

La Plata Peak - 8.6 miles

La Plata Trailhead

View across La Plata Basin from La Plata Peak

View across La Plata Basin from La Plata Peak

Round-Trip Length: 8.6 miles (add .6 roundtrip from parking lot to TH)
Start-End Elevation: 10,170' - 14,361' (14,361' max elevation on summit)
Elevation Change: +4,191' net elevation gain (+4,509' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

La Plata Peak - 8.6 Miles Round-Trip

La Plata Peak (14,361') is located 4.3 miles from La Plata Peak Trailhead off Highway 82 in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. It's the 5th highest peak in Colorado, distinguished by a broad west flank, bulky-rock summit and exceptional views that extend deep into the Collegiate Peaks and from Twin Lakes to Independence Pass.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The hike begins across a deep gorge in South Fork Lake Creek and joins La Plata Creek, which it follows into the upper valley before splitting up La Plata's west flank on a strenuous push to the north ridge.

It continues on a variously steep and rugged path across sections of sharp talus to the summit. The main route is non-technical, reasonably well-marked and minimally exposed, though you may find the descent equally time consuming while negotiating loose rock on steep grades.

La Plata Peak Trailhead is located on Highway 82, 14 miles west of the Highway 82 - Highway 24 junction in Twin Lakes (28.1 miles east of Original Street in downtown Aspen). The trail officially begins .3 miles down South Fork Lake Creek Road (FDR 391), which is private.

You must walk the road to access the trail (left side of road). Distances here begin from the main trail access point on South Fork Lake Creek Road:

The trail begins on private land and quickly meets a bridge over a scenic gorge in the South Fork. Cross and bear right into an undulating aspen forest to a makeshift log bridge (.55 miles) that leads to mud reinforced steps at the base of La Plata Gulch (.8 miles : 10,355').

The steps funnel into La Plata Gulch and beside steep cascades on La Plata Creek. The trail climbs 655' in just .7 miles into the wide, U-shaped upper valley (1.5 miles : 11,010'). It levels briefly before edging (left) up the west flank of La Plata on very steep, tightly wound switchbacks that gradually lengthen and straighten through 12,000' (2.4 miles).

Travel moderates across grassy benches before another steep push to the north ridge with great views (east) down La Plata Basin (3.0 miles : 12,750'). The trail climbs steadily to the base of a large talus slope where you'll find several cairn-marked routes but no great options (3.5 miles : 13,468'). Pick your way through steep, uneven rock until finding a decent track through 14,000' (3.95 miles).

The trail continues on a rugged but straight-forward path to a false summit (4.25 miles) and across a rocky ridge to La Plata Peak (14,361'). You may continue on a Class 3 scramble along Ellingwood Ridge, or improvise your return down La Plata Basin to join Lake Creek and follow well-defined social trails back to the trailhead to make a loop.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 03.843 W106 30.235 — 0.0 miles : La Plata Trailhead on SFLC Road
  • N39 03.828 W106 29.757 — .55 miles : Cross Creek on log bridge
  • N39 03.615 W106 29.772 — .8 miles : Begin steep-step climb
  • N39 03.450 W106 29.698 — 1.0 miles : Steep climb in narrow gulch
  • N39 03.080 W106 29.539 — 1.5 miles : Trail levels in open upper valley
  • N39 02.820 W106 29.368 — 1.87 miles : Wilderness Boundary sign
  • N39 02.664 W106 29.142 — 2.15 miles : Clear treeline on steep climb up chute
  • N39 02.506 W106 29.050 — 2.4 miles : Cross 12,000'
  • N39 02.411 W106 29.013 — 2.6 miles : Trail straightens across flank
  • N39 02.336 W106 28.784 — 3.0 miles : Gain ridge and briefly moderate
  • N39 02.171 W106 28.785 — 3.25 miles : Cross 13,000'
  • N39 02.070 W106 28.628 — 3.51 miles : Small grassy saddle with views over basin
  • N39 01.958 W106 28.608 — 3.7 miles : Steep route through talus
  • N39 01.838 W106 28.568 — 3.95 miles : Cross 14,000'
  • N39 01.760 W106 28.436 — 4.2 miles : Level across false summit
  • N39 01.766 W106 28.378 — 4.25 miles : La Plata Peak (14,361')

Worth Noting

  • Get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Negotiating steep and ill-defined talus can take just as much time on the descent. Plan travel time accordingly.
  • There are 8 Fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: La Plata Peak, Mt Harvard, Mt Yale, Mt Columbia, Mt Oxford, Mt Belford, Mt Missouri and Huron Peak.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping:

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and San Isabel National Forest. No fees or permits are required.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (or 25 with people + stock).

  • Campfires are permitted in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and San Isabel National Forest. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Seasonal and location-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Leadville Ranger District (719.486.0749) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted on Lake Creek (including North and South forks) with a valid Colorado fishing license. Be mindful of private property lines near the trailhead and along the first mile of trail. Fishing is only permitted on public National Forest Lands.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
  • South Fork Lake Creek Road is private, and public parking is prohibited. Use designated public parking spaces at the La Plata Peak Trailhead on Highway 82 and walk the road to access the trail. The first mile of trail passes through private property. Remain the designated trail at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

La Plata Peak Trailhead is located on Highway 82, 14 miles west of the Highway 82 - Highway 24 junction in Twin Lakes (28.1 miles east of Original Street in downtown Aspen). The trailhead is marked by a large sign on Highway 82. 

Park only in designated spaces at the trailhead and where permitted on the highway shoulder. Note that South Fork Lake Creek Road (FDR 391) is private, and public parking is not permitted. You must walk the road (.3 miles) to access the trail.

Contact Information

Leadville Ranger District
810 Front Street
Leadville, CO 80461

Pike and San Isabel National Forest
2840 Kachina Drive
Pueblo, CO 81008

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