Mount Antero (14,276ft.) is a 14er mountain located near the town of Buena Vista in Colorado’s San Isabel National Forest and within the ruggedly beautiful Sawatch Range. The peak is of course incredibly popular among hikers, but perhaps even more popular with off-road enthusiasts. Indeed, Mount Antero boasts the highest trail system in the U.S. that is open to Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs), with a dirt road leading to slightly below the summit. As if having the highest trail system wasn’t enough, Mount Antero also has the highest gem field in the contiguous U.S., with especially abundant aquamarine deposits.
The standard route to Mount Antero’s summit is via the Class 2 West Slopes. Near the mining ghost town of St. Elmo, the 2WD trailhead begins at Chalk Creek Drive on FS Road 277. Starting at the 2WD Trailhead, the route to the summit and back is easy to follow but very long at 15.0 miles roundtrip with about 5,000ft. of elevation gain. For those with 4WD vehicles and an interest in shortening the length of the hike, there are pull-offs and dispersed camping along FS Road 277. For this hike, we like starting at the 2WD trailhead, which offers an incredible challenge both in terms of mileage and overall elevation gain. With an early start, this route is a suitable day hike with proper preparation and training.
HIKE REVIEW SERIES: Mount Antero
Mount Antero is a notable Colorado 14er for a number of reasons. Named in honor of Chief Antero of the Uintah band (now tribe) of the Ute Tribe, Mount Antero was recorded as such as part of the 1870 HaydenGeological Survey. Chief Antero, also known as Graceful Walker and White Eye, was a signatory of the Brunot Agreement of 1873 between the Utes and the U.S. Government, establishing mining operations in the San Juan Mountains.
Though Mount Antero is not located in the San Juan Range (rather, the Sawatch Range), mining operations have a special history here as well and continue to thrive today. Indeed, the ghost town of St. Elmo near the 2WD Trailhead was established in 1880 as a hub for gold and silver miners. Today, Mount Antero is mined for its vast mineral deposits and gems such as aquamarine, topaz, and fluorite.
As with nearly every Colorado 14er mountain, Mount Antero is very popular with hikers, but also with off-roading enthusiasts. Expect to see considerable OHV trail traffic on this route and plan to share the trail. The off-road trail tops out below the summit; thus, the apex of the mountain is only accessible via hiking.
- Summit Elevation: 14,276ft.
- Range: Sawatch
- Location: San Isabel National Forest
- Nearest Town: Buena Vista
- Route: West Slopes
- Class: 2
- Type: Out-and-Back
- Trailhead: Chalk Creek/FS 277
- Trailhead Elevation: 9,459ft.
- Route Length: 15.0 miles
- Elevation Gain: 5,094ft.
The Class 2 West Slopes route to Mount Antero begins around 9,450ft. along Chalk Creek Drive at the 2WD Trailhead. This is FS Road 277, which is heavily used by OHVs. The trail starts steep, but is fairly gradual for the first three miles of ascent to reach the junction with FS Road 278 and Baldwin Creek. This is the 4WD Trailhead at Baldwin Gulch. Turn left here, crossing Baldwin Creek and continuing along the well-defined jeep road.
Past the creek crossing, hike another 1.5 miles along FS Road 278 – Upper Brown’s Creek to reach a series of very sharp long switchbacks, which will seem quite formidable when viewed looking down from higher elevation. Once through about a mile of these switchbacks, near 13,000ft., reach a junction with FS Road 278A toward Mount Antero. Another road branch, FS Road 278B, takes you toward Mount White, so be sure to stay on A. After about a mile of additional ascent through a few more small switchbacks, reach a mining operation around 13,700ft., slightly below Mount Antero’s summit and where OHV adventurers gather to enjoy the vista. The remaining part of the route is where the true hiking adventure begins; follow the cairns and reach Mount Antero’s summit with a small bit of scrambling.
Plan to share the summit with a good number fellow hikers and off-roading enthusiasts that drove to just below the peak. Mount Antero is incredibly popular with off-roaders, which makes it one of the busier 14er peaks. Descend via doubling back from the summit and retracing steps to the 2WD Trailhead parking area on Chalk Creek Drive and enjoy the accomplishment of summiting a fantastic Colorado 14er!
Beginning in the town of Buena Vista, CO, turn left on US-24 E for about 2.5 miles before it turns into US 285 S for about 5.5 miles heading through the small town of Nathrop. Take a right onto Chalk Creek Drive (County Road 162) for about 12 miles, passing Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort and a number of campgrounds (e.g., Mount Princeton Campground, Chalk Lake Campground, and Cascade Campground). Reach the Mount Antero 2WD Trailhead (FS Road 277), near Alpine Lake and just before the ghost town of St. Elmo. Ample parking is available on Chalk Creek Drive near the trailhead. For those with 4WD vehicles, you can reach just below the Mount Antero summit if preferred.
The West Slopes route to Mount Antero begins at the 2WD trailhead, which is on Chalk Creek Drive (County Road 162) and heads up FS Road 277. There is ample parking on the side of Chalk Creek Road, with space for perhaps 15-20 vehicles. Alternatively, if you have a 4WD vehicle, there are a number of pull-offs along FS Road 277. The 4WD trail system leads to just below Mount Antero’s summit with parking near small mining operations. Expect mostly high clearance vehicles (Jeeps, Tacomas, 4Runners, etc.) and ATVs at this elevation.
Along County Road 162 and approaching the 2WD trailhead at FS Road 177, there are a number of established campgrounds to choose from. From the town of Nathrop, you’ll pass three campground in a row on County Road 162. First will be Mount Princeton Campground, located in Chalk Creek Canyon and reservable in advance. Next is Chalk Lake Campground, also reservable in advance. And finally, just a short distance away, is Cascade Campground, which is nearest the 2WD trailhead. All of these campgrounds can be reserved at recreation.gov.
Alternatively, for those with 4WD vehicles, you can also consider dispersed camping along FS Road 277 at any of the numerous pull-offs. If you do opt for dispersed camping, please choose a site that has been prep-established.
Dogs are permitted on leash. Please be mindful that, as with many 14er mountains, there are some steep and loose rock sections approaching the summit. Also, be aware of the considerable OHV traffic on the trail. If you do opt to bring your pet, be considerate of others by keeping your pet on leash and picking up/packing out any dog waste.
Always check the weather forecast before venturing into alpine country. Thunderstorms and lightning are frequent occurrences in Colorado during the summer time, so plan ahead for your Mount Antero 14er summit adventure.
RECOMMENDED HIKING APPAREL AND GEAR
We recommend bringing along a topographical map of the area — try the “Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Sawatch Range Map Pack” for an affordable way to purchase multiple maps at once, including one for Mount Antero. A good topographical map is always nice to have in addition to a GPS device, if you’re using one. In addition, we included a couple of our favorite field guides for plant and bird identification to aid in the enjoyment of your outdoor adventure. Lastly, we included Gerry Roach’s “Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs” guidebook, which includes Mount Antero and other 14er hikes in Colorado that may be of interest.
- Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs
- A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners
- Colorado 14ers: The Standard Routes
- Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Sawatch Range Map Pack
- Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide
- Roadside Geology of Colorado
- Mammals of Colorado Field Guide
- American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of Colorado
- Sibley Birds West: Field Guide to Birds of Western North America
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