Hiking La Plata Peak: A Stunning 14er Summit

La Plata Peak is named after ‘the silver’ in Spanish thanks to nearby silver deposits. The mining ghost towns Winfield and Hamilton nearby testify to this silver boom past. Hiking La Plata Peak via its Northwest Ridge is an easy Class 2 scramble to the summit from the north. The trailhead is easy to access from the highway near Independence Pass, so you don’t need a special vehicle to reach it. Start planning your trip with this La Plata Peak Route Guide.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Hiking La Plata Peak Fast Facts

Hiking La Plata Peak - Northwest Ridge Route

You’ll start hiking La Plata Peak at the La Plata Gulch trailhead. From the parking area, head across the vehicular bridge and walk along the road for a few hundred feet until you come across the real entrance to the trail on your left. Don’t park up near this section as you’ll come back to a ticket on your car – it’s a private road. Head left up the route.

Continue through the trees and cross the creek over the well-built bridge less than 1 mile into the route. Enjoy the deep ravine below as you pass and begin to climb up the slope in the section to come.

Shortly after leaving the tree line, switch back your way up a gully to gain the northwest ridge of La Plata Peak. Take a right at the top to traverse along the slope before reaching a large flat area around 12,300 feet.

From here, you can see much of the climb to come. Climb a steep pitch to the ridge before taking a 1.25-mile hike up to the summit, weaving along as you go.

Move along the ridge to the right to pass up and to the right of a large hump. Once past the hump, continue up the ridge before turning left to reach the summit ridge. Finish hiking La Plata Peak by walking up to the mountain’s high point along the ridge.

Once you make it up the summit, enjoy your accomplishment! Make sure you leave to head back down with plenty of time to reach the tree line by the afternoon. I hope you enjoyed my La Plata Peak Route Guide! Good luck hiking La Plata Peak, and safe travels on the trail.

La Plata Peak Route

La Plata Peak Route Guide

You should definitely bring along a good topographical map of the La Plata Peak route. If you plan on hiking La Plata Peak, I recommend downloading this map on your phone or other electronic gps device. You should also print it out to bring a backup paper copy in case anything happens to your electronics. 

You should thoroughly check the weather conditions before hiking La Plata Peak: check it multiple times and from multiple sources. Be sure to look for temperature highs and lows, wind speed, precipitation, and any major storm systems that may impact the trip. Here are several good weather sources for the La Plata Peak route.

NOAA Weather Forecast for La Plata Peak

Mountain Forecast for La Plata Peak

La Plata Peak route guide

The Northwest Ridge route begins at the La Plata Gulch Trailhead. This is located along a major Highway, US Hwy 82, and is thus accessible to all passenger 2WD vehicles, year-round.

DIRECTIONS TO THE LA PLATA PEAK TRAILHEAD:

From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west towards Twin Lakes. Drive 14.5 miles on Colorado 82 until you see the marked trailhead and parking area on the left. Note: Camping is not allowed at the trailhead.

La Plata Peak will likely be harder than you expect. The right footwear will keep you going after long miles on the trail, and protect your ankles from twists and sprains if you trip and fall while scrambling to the summit. Here are my top hiking boot recommendations.

You should always bring the ten essentials with you on your trip (see the infographic below). To carry them all, bring a backpack with 20-30 liters capacity. These are several good backpack options that won’t break the bank. 

While trekking poles are not a necessity on this mountain, I use them myself as they offer many benefits and make hiking easier. If you want a pair, I share my personal favorites here

Don’t forget to bring 2 liters of water, and a good bit of snacks and food for the trail. Learn more about packing for a 14er here.

Camping near La Plata Peak:

There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those climbing La Plata Peak. Note that camping is not allowed at the trailhead. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near La Plata Peak:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Buena Vista, Leadville, and the surrounding area, ideal for those climbing La Plata Peak.

La Plata Peak sees a lot of traffic coming from Buena Vista and Leadville. It’s only going to get worse as more people move and travel to Colorado to hike the 14ers. Help protect the area while hiking La Plata Peak by following these key Leave No Trace practices:

  • Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
  • Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
  • Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
  • Urinate off-trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
  • Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
  • Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.

Safe travels, and good luck hiking La Plata Peak! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.

“La Plata” means ‘the silver’ in spanish. This makes sense given La Plata Peak’s location in the heart of the historic silver mining era. The mountain is surrounded by abandoned mining camps, with Independence Pass dating back to the late 19th-century mining boom. Those looking for something more difficult than hiking La Plata Peak can try too scramble up it along the famous class-3 Ellingwood Ridge.

Hiking La Plata Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Hiking La Plata Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.

Alex Derr, Creator of The Next Summit

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

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