Missouri Gulch is your gateway to three different 14ers. In this guide, we leave Missouri Mountain alone and focus on hiking Mount Belford and Oxford, which can be tackled together in a single day. This hike brings together a historic mining area, well-built trail and solitude for an absolutely great experience. Make sure you check the weather before continuing on to Mt Oxford – this section takes longer than it looks. Start planning your trip up these peaks with my Mt Belford and Oxford Route Guide below!
Hiking Mount Belford & Oxford: Fast Facts
CAUTION: This Route is Hazardous!
You are responsible for your personal safety in the backcountry.
These peaks can be unpredictable and dangerous. Help is often hours or days away: your safety is primarily your responsibility. Prepare for your trek, understand your limits, be aware of the risks, and equip yourself with the necessary skills and gear.
Hiking Mount Belford and Oxford - Northwest Ridge
Your adventure hiking Mount Belford and Oxford begins at the Missouri Gulch trailhead. Start climbing up Missouri Gulch following a series of switchbacks that are tiring but get you into the alpine terrain rather quickly. After the path straightens out, continue through some aspens before you come to a stream crossing. It looks very different from the past following a major avalanche during the winter of 2019. Use a small log bridge to cross.
Once you cross the river, continue heading up the slope along the well-built trail. As you approach the tree line you’ll come to a historic cabin built by a miner in the late 19th century. It’s a great place to pitch your tent for the night if you are hiking Mount Belford and Oxford as a multi-day trip.
After leaving the cover of the trees the rest of the route up Belford becomes visible for the first time. You’ll be hiking up the large ridge that comes out from the mountain in your direction. Take a left at the signed junction about a half mile beyond tree line.
Gaining the ridge requires a scramble through some rocky, rugged terrain. I believe this is really the crux of the entire route (though some disagree). Pick your way up through the rocks until back on the clear, maintained trail to keep hiking Mount Belford and Oxford.
Continue up the ridge up the trail, following the switchbacks as they come. Cutting the trail harms the environment by creating unsustainable drainage channels – stick to the trail!
Along the summit ridge walk across the relatively flat section towards the summit block. While the block is rugged there is a pretty clear, hikable trail up to the summit.
Enjoy your accomplishment here at the peak, along with amazing views of the Sawatch Range around you. Before you continue on your trip hiking Mount Belford and Oxford, take some time to check the weather conditions and ensure everything looks good.
From the summit, turn south and head across a flat section. Aim for the point where the ridge connecting with Oxford meets the flat section. Mt Harvard rises dramatically behind this meeting point. Take a left here and descend carefully to the traverse ridge.
Continue hiking about a half mile to the saddle at 13,500 feet. Be wary of snow which may cover sections of trail during the early spring.
Begin climbing back up to the summit of Mt Oxford, about 600 feet above you. Watch the weather as you go. There aren’t any easy descents here except for the way back you came.
As you near the summit block of Mt Oxford, head left and weave your way through rocks following cairns and the trail before you finally summit. Enjoy your time, but make sure you can get back over Belford and back to tree line before noon so you’re safe from afternoon thunderstorms.
I hope you enjoyed my Mt Belford and Oxford Route Guide! Safe travels on the trail and good luck hiking Mount Belford and Oxford.
Anyone hiking Mount Belford and Oxford should have a map of the route with them on their climb. Here is a high-quality topographic map of the Mt Belford and Oxford route you can use on your trip. I recommend downloading a digital version on your cell phone, and printing out a backup paper copy to bring with in case anything goes wrong with your electronics.
You shouldn’t start hiking Mount Belford and Oxford without reviewing the weather forecast multiple in preparation, from multiple sources. Here are several dependable sources for weather forecast information for the Mt Belford and Oxford route guide.
Those hiking Mount Belford and Oxford get started at the Missouri Gulch Trailhead. This trailhead is reached via a dirt road accessible to most 4WD vehicles.
DIRECTIONS TO THE MISSOURI GULCH TRAILHEAD:
A day trip spent hiking Mount Belford and Oxford is long and tiring. The right gear, especially the proper footwear, will make it much easier to reach the summit. Start with the right pair of solid hiking boots. Here are my top hiking boot recommendations for 14ers.
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 Mount Belford & Oxford:
- Clear Creek Reservoir Campground
- Dexter Point Campground
- Railroad Bridge Campground
- Lakeview Campground
There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along the road leading to the trailhead ideal for those hiking Mount Belford and Oxford. There are more spots if you continue along the road beyond the trailhead. Note that camping is not allowed at the trailhead. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.
Lodging near Mount Belford & Oxford:
There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Leadville, Buena Vista, and the surrounding area, ideal for those hiking Mount Belford and Oxford.
While you are hiking Mount Belford and Oxford you will likely notice how beautiful the area is. Missouri Gulch is still very pristine, despite the traffic it receives. Help us keep it in this condition by following key Leave No Trace practices.. This 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 Belford and Oxford! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.
More background info about hiking Mount Belford and Oxford is coming Soon!
Hiking Mount Belford and Oxford is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking Mount Belford and Oxford 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.