Mount Antero: 14er Hike Review

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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. 


Mountain Information

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 aquamarinetopaz, 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. 

Mount Antero

  • Summit Elevation: 14,276ft.
  • Range: Sawatch
  • Location: San Isabel National Forest
  • Nearest Town: Buena Vista

Trail Guide

Route Information

  • 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.
Difficulty – 0
Scenery - 0
Crowds - 0
Fun Factor - 0

Route Overview

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!

Planning Tips

Getting There

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

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.

Weather Forecast

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.


Hiking Boots

The Vasque Torre hiking boots are incredibly lightweight, provide excellent traction, and are quite affordable for their versatility. We like the Vasque Torre’s for everyday hiking that includes a bit of scrambling. In addition, with the “GORE-TEX” construction, you don’t have to worry about damp feet if the weather turns or you have to splash through streams or puddles along the way.

Hiking Pants

We love prAna’s hiking pants for their quality and versatility. Indeed, their Zion (for men) and Halle (for women) are great on- and off-trail, especially for travel. Constructed with a durable UPF-50 fabric, a water-repellant finish, and utility pockets, these have become a staple in our wardrobe. Remember that it can be rather chilly at alpine elevations, so consider hiking pants rather than shorts (both for warmth and sun protection).

Hiking Shirt

It can get chilly during alpine outings, particularly when you start early in the morning. Therefore, we typically opt for a long sleeve but lightweight shirt to keep us warm when it’s cold, but keeps us cool when we are working up a sweat later in the day. The no-cotton rule applies to shirts just as it does for pants and other articles of clothing.

Our preferred hiking shirt in the summer is Outdoor Research’s Echo Hoody because of its UPF sun protection qualities and lightweight (4oz.) breathable construction. The shirt has a hood for added neck protection and has thumbholes to protect your hands from sun exposure, if you opt to not wear sun gloves. Outdoor Research also makes different varieties of the Echo shirt (e.g., quarter zip, long sleeve without hood, t-shirt, etc.) if you prefer another style.

Insulated Jacket

The Arc’teryx Atom is easily our favorite insulated jacket. Yes, there may be lighter weight alternatives on the market, but we love the style, fit, packability, and function. Wear the Atom during early morning starts or when you reach the mountain summit. It’s a great addition to an outdoors wardrobe and comes in handy when the temperature dips.

Hiking Socks

For most of our hiking needs, we like Darn Tough socks over the multitude of options on the market. They last long and have an ironclad guarantee. In addition, Darn Tough has a variety of designs, ankle lengths, and cushioning options to choose from. We like the Hiker quarter length with light cushioning.

Headwear/Face Covering

We often wear a Buff as a neck gaiter to protect from the sun, given its UPF 50 protective construction. Buffs are also a great option to use as a face covering on the trail. In fact, there are 12+ ways of wearing a Buff, so it’s a versatile piece of gear.

Day Pack

To summit Mount Antero, we like REI Co-op’s Flash 22L pack for its affordability, lightweight design, and overall versatility. This pack has enough storage for a day hike and side pockets are available to store Nalgene bottles or other equipment. It is also hydration reservoir compatible. We think the 22L version has the perfect capacity, though REI does have an even smaller Flash 18L with a drawcord top.

Trekking Poles

Although trekking poles are optional and a matter of preference, we prefer to use them for added stability. We recommend choosing the lightest weight poles your budget can afford. The Black Diamond Distance Z is our top choice due to its extremely lightweight construction. If you are seeking just one pole, rather than two, consider Gossamer Gear’s LT5, which can be purchased individually.

recommended books

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. 

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