Hiking Missouri Mountain | An Incredible Class 2+ Scramble

Missouri Mountain is a rugged peak with great scrambling opportunities up its northwest ridge. Hiking Missouri Mountain is a Class 2+ route, with one spot in particular that requires a short down climb at high elevation. If you aren’t a fan of heights, this isn’t the best peak for you. If you’re considering trying a Class 3 fourteener, this is a great transition trip. Plan your visit with my Missouri Mountain route guide below.

New to 14ers? Check Out my 14er Beginners Guide to Get Started!

Hiking Missouri Mountain: Fast Facts

Hiking Missouri Mountain - Northwest Ridge Route

Your trip hiking Missouri Mountain begins at the Missouri Gulch Trailhead. From the parking area, head up the solid trail and begin ascending a series of switchbacks. Early on, you’ll pass a small grave for a child from the historic mining era, a reminder of the history around you. Eventually, reach a creek cross, which will look far different from this photo due to a large avalanche in 2019. Cross here and continue along the trail.

You’ll now pass through a large avalanche scar from the historic 2019 season. Hike up the rebuilt trail to ascend a moraine and enter Missouri Gulch proper. As you near the tree line, you will come across an old mining cabin from the early 1900s. If you are doing a two-day climb, this is a great place to spend the night, using the cabin as a windbreak.

Continuing past the cabin, pop out of the trees to see Missouri Mountain far ahead of you, and Mount Belford to the left. You can make out much of the route for hiking Missouri Mountain from here as well. Your task now is to continue up the Gulch, ascending another large moraine, until you reach the Elk Pass trail junction. 

The trail junction here comes into view once you make it up and over another large moraine. Just after passing the junction, take a sharp right to start ascending a slope using a series of switchbacks. 

Once up the slope, take a trail along the slope that gradually rises to the saddle on the ridge above. This is a rough, rocky trail, so take your time. A fall here would not be fun. In early summer, bring microspikes as there are several sections of snow beyond. 

Once on the saddle, turn left to look at your remaining route. This is where the scrambling becomes Class 2+ as you traverse over a few exposed areas. Stick to the trail, and you’ll be good to go. Watch for cairns as well to guide you.

Just a few hundred feet short of the summit, you will reach the crux of the route. Turn and downclimb a short 5-meter section of rock. I recommend a helmet here just in case you knock anything loose. It’s not difficult, but it may feel exposed and uncomfortable if you are new to climbing. Take your time, and let someone experienced talk you through it if you are unsure. 

Once beyond this short downclimb, the final few hundred feet lie in front of you. Ascend this final section of trail to finish hiking Missouri Mountain.

Once you make it to the top, celebrate your accomplishment with a snack, summit photo, and summit beer if you have one! Make sure you turn around with plenty of time to reach the safety of the tree line before afternoon thunderstorms move in. I hope you enjoyed my Missouri Mountain Route Guide. Safe travels on the trail and good luck hiking Missouri Mountain!

A good topographical map should be in every mountaineer’s backpack. If you plan on hiking Missouri Mountain, I recommend downloading this map of the route on your phone or other electronic device, and also printing out a paper backup copy in case anything happens to your digital version.

Missouri Mountain Standard Route Guide

You should always check the weather forecast several times, from several sources before climbing or hiking Missouri Mountain. Here are several dependable weather forecast sites for the Missouri Mountain route.

Mountain Forecast Missouri Mountain

NOAA Weather Forecast Missouri Mountain

Missouri Mountain is a moderately difficult 14er. As such, it’s a good idea to bring all of the ten essentials.

The most important and most expensive gear you need for hiking Missouri Mountain is a solid backpack for your other gear and a pair of hiking boots that will get you to the summit. I recommend hiking boots instead of hiking shoes while hiking Missouri Mountain because they provide more ankle support to prevent twists and sprains.

I recommend trekking poles too, as they help you use your upper body strength to support your legs and increases your balance. If you bring a pair, make sure they collapse so you can store them on your pack or the short summit scramble.

Click here to learn more about what to bring with you for a safe and successful fourteener.

Camping near Missouri Mountain:

There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those hiking Missouri Mountain. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Missouri Mountain:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Leadville and Buena Vista perfect for those hiking Missouri Mountain.

Please help us keep Missouri Mountain and the surrounding area pristine during your trip by following Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics. This specifically includes:

  • 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 Mount Columbia!

Missouri Mountain was originally named by miners from Missouri during the late 1880’s silver mine rush. The peak is separated from Mount Belford by Elkhead Pass, and the USGS did not recognize it as an independent fourteener until the mid 20th century. Hiking Missouri Mountain is one of the more difficult class 2 routes up the state’s fourteeners due to a long approach and some serious scrambling along the summit ridge.

Hiking Missouri Mountain 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 Missouri Mountain and other mountains 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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