La Plata Peak (14,336ft.) is a 14er mountain located in the Sawatch Range, and more specifically within Colorado’s stunning Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Located near the small town of Twin Lakes, and nestled between Leadville to the northeast and Buena Vista to the southeast, La Plata Peak is a popular draw for visitors seeking to hike Colorado’s 5th tallest mountain.
The Northwest Ridge route is considered the standard route to the summit of La Plata Peak, which begins at the La Plata Trailhead directly off of CO-82 near Lake Creek. This 9.0 mile round-trip route rated is Class 2 and is fairly easy to follow, but requires a steep 4,200ft. ascent (which is a common attribute for many Sawatch Range peaks).
Hike Review Series: La Plata Peak
The name La Plata Peak (which translates to “Silver” Peak in English), is an homage to the surrounding area’s rich silver mining history. The towns of Vicksburg and Winfield to the south of La Plata Peak in Clear Creek Canyon, now ghost towns, were both silver mining settlements in the 1880s. By the turn of the century, the silver market had crashed and mining operations slowed, leading to the abandonment of these and other surrounding camps in Clear Creek Canyon. Thus, the name La Plata Peak is a fitting reminder of the area’s past.
In terms of the mountain’s location, La Plata Peak is part of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains and resides within the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and the San Isabel National Forest. At 14,336ft., La Plata Peak holds the impressive distinction of being the 5th tallest mountain in Colorado.
La Plata Peak
The trailhead for the Northwest Ridge route to the summit of La Plata Peak is easily accessible and does not require a 4WD vehicle. The route begins fittingly at the La Plata Trailhead off of CO-82, west of the town of Twin Lakes, CO. The trailhead parking area is small, with enough room for perhaps 15 to 20 vehicles. Thus, an early arrival to secure a parking spot is highly recommended.
The Northwest Ridge route itself is very straightforward, but requires a steep ascent. From the parking area, the route begins along a private road and crosses North Fork Lake Creek to eventually access the formal trailhead. Cross the bridge over South Fork Lake Creek and head east before reaching La Plata Gulch and ascending the Class 1 trail in a southeasterly direction toward the northwest ridge of La Plata Peak. A Class 2 scramble through the talus and boulders will reach the summit to enjoy outstanding views of the Sawatch Range and more.
Continuing through the ascent, the trail turns into more talus and boulder hopping. Ellingwood Ridge, an alternative route to the summit of La Plata Peak is featured to the northeast in this photo taken from approximately 14,000ft. Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado, is also viewable in the distance.
Provisions and Dining
The towns of Leadville, Buena Vista, and Twin Lakes are reasonably close to the La Plata Trailhead. If you plan to stop somewhere for a bite to eat after your hike, you’ll have a few options to choose from. Below are a couple of our recommendations for places to stop in these towns.
Recommended Hiking Apparel and Gear
In our opinion, the best guidebook for information on Colorado’s 14er mountains is Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs. All other guidebooks pale in comparison. Thus, this book will suit you well for hiking La Plata Peak, and come in handy for any future 14er adventures.
Although the Northwest Ridge route to La Plata Peak is fairly straightforward, we always recommend carrying a map such as the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area – National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map. In addition, we included a couple of our favorite field guides for plant and bird identification. These guides provide useful information that adds to the outdoors experience and help answer questions about animal and flower species.
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