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Hiking Mount Lincoln

Hiking Mount Lincoln: Essential Tips for a Safe & Successful 14er Ascent

Situated within the esteemed Mosquito Range, Mount Lincoln offers an unparalleled hiking experience that combines breathtaking scenery, diverse ecosystems, and rewarding challenges. This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the various trails, essential gear, and practical insights needed to navigate the climb successfully. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a novice hiker, this resource is designed to equip you with the knowledge and confidence required to make your ascent both enjoyable and secure. With a focus on safety, preparedness, and environmental stewardship, this guide is your essential companion for a fulfilling adventure hiking Mount Lincoln.

New to 14ers? Check out my Beginner Guide for a safe ascent!

HELP KEEP MOUNT LINCOLN OPEN: SUPPORT THE FIX CRUS COALITION!

A flaw in Colorado’s recreational use statue (CRUS) leaves landowners open to substantial liability risks. This is threatening to shut down access to the Decalibron Loop forever unless we can update the CRUS this spring. You can help protect access by taking three simple actions:

1. Click here to sign the petition urging lawmakers to support access.

2. Click here to join the Grassroots support group to stay updated about future developments.

3. Click here to donate $14 to help us defend 14er public access across Colorado.

Mount Bross remains closed. Please respect this closure as the Fix CRUS Coalition of partners works to re-secure public access to the peak. Thank you for understanding.

Mount Lincoln Fast Facts

TAKE CARE & STAY SAFE!

You are responsible for your own 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 Lincoln - Kite Lake Route

First time planning a 14er hike or climb? Start by reading the route description and reviewing the route map. You should use the weather forecasts to plan, along with my gear recommendations. Check the Trailhead info to ensure you know how to get there and have an appropriate vehicle. Stay nearby at one of the camping or lodging options below to acclimatize before your climb and reduce your risk of altitude sickness. Lastly, refresh your Leave No Trace and mountain safety knowledge to protect the peaks and yourself.

There is additional information about the peak, local regulations, plus additional resources and a frequently asked question section. Have a question? Leave a comment at the bottom of the route guide and we’ll reply ASAP with an answer. Cheers!

Start your adventure at the Kite Lake trailhead – the access road is rocky, but most 2WD vehicles can make it (I once managed it in a Prius!). Remember to pay the parking fee and sign the waiver to protect public access to this spectacular area.

From the trailhead, begin hiking north along the lake, towards the Democrat-Cameron saddle. You’ll climb a series of moraines up to the saddle, passing several historic mining structures on the way. These are dangerous ruins, so enjoy them from the trail to stay safe. Pass by a small prospector’s hole just before reaching the saddle.

Once you make it to the saddle, you’ll be treated to amazing views of the basin beyond. Pause to catch your breath if you need to, before turning right towards the summit of Mount Cameron. Work your way through the rough trail, using cairns to keep track of the right path forward. Eventually, the terrain eases as you reach the gentle sloped summit of Mount Cameron, an unofficial 14er but an amazing peak nonetheless.

From here you are very close to the summit of Mount Lincoln. Start hiking along the ridge trail towards the 14er and lose about 200 feet of elevation to reach another high saddle between the two peaks. Start ascending again for roughly 350 feet, passing by several old mines, until you reach the rocky summit of Mount Lincoln.

From the summit, you can see Quandary Peak to the north, Mount Elbert and the Sawatch Range to the west, and the Front Range and south park to the south and east. Enjoy your time on top of the world, and be sure you finish hiking Mount Lincoln by 1pm to avoid the afternoon thunderstorm risk. Safe travels on the trails!

Bring a topographic map with you to ensure you can navigate while hiking Mount Lindsey. Never rely on your phone 100%. Batteries die, screens shatter, and accidents happen. A compass and GPS app or unit is also a good idea to keep with you.

Hiking Mount Lincoln Topographic Route Map

Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before hiking Mount Lincoln! These three websites are a good places to start your research:

Mountain Forecast for Mount Lincoln

NOAA Weather Forecast for Mount Lincoln

Open Summit Weather Forecast: Mount Lincoln

Below is a copy of the entire NWS forecast for Mount Lincoln and the rest of the Decalibron Loop. Scroll through to read the entire forecast in detail.

Conditions on Mount Lincoln and the other Decalibron 14ers change dramatically during the year. It is important to check the current conditions before you go so you can plan ahead and pack accordingly. Keep in mind, we don’t vet these individual reports, so take them each with a grain of salt.

Getting There: Directions from Denver

From Denver, take I-70 west to CO-9 South. Continue on CO-9 South to the town of Alma. In Alma, take a right turn onto Kite Lake Road (County Road 8), which will be unpaved. Continue for about 6 miles until you reach the Kite Lake Trailhead. The last mile can be quite bumpy and may require a high-clearance vehicle.

Parking Permits, Fees, and Reservations

As of the last update, a day-use parking fee is required at the Kite Lake Trailhead. The fee is typically around $5 to $10. Note that this fee is cash-only and requires exact change.

While the parking lot does fill up quickly during peak hiking season, it doesn’t operate on a reservation system. Parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so try to arrive early in the morning to secure a spot.

You must sign a legal liability waiver before climbing Mount Lincoln, which is on private land. Click here to sign it before you visit or use the kiosk along the Access Road.

Trailhead Amenities

The Kite Lake Trailhead has a few amenities, including a restroom and camping spots. Note that the campsites are primitive, so you’ll need to bring all necessary camping equipment and supplies with you. Please adhere to Leave No Trace principles when camping to preserve the natural environment for future visitors.

Hiking Mount Lincoln isn’t a walk in the park. The right gear will help you stay safe and give you the best possible chance of reaching the summit successfully. Here are some key pieces of equipment I recommend bringing with you while visiting the Decalibron Loop and Mount Lincoln.

Hiking Boots: Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX Boots

Power through uphills and descents in any weather with Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GORE-TEX men’s hiking boots. They give you the stability and grip you need, plus a higher cut for extra ankle support.

Buy at REI 

 

Backpack: Osprey Talon 22 Pack

The Osprey Talon 22 is the perfect size for those hiking Mount Lincoln and the other Decalibron 14ers. With trek pole clasps to secure them to your pack, a pocket for your hydration bladder, and great comfort, you cannot beat this backpack.

Buy at REI →

 

Trek Poles: REI Co-op Traverse Trekking Poles

Trek poles provide stability while hiking and help you use your upper body strength while moving to give your legs a break. These award-winning poles from REI are lightweight, strong, and adjustable for rugged terrain.

Buy at REI →

 

Always Pack the Ten Essentials

The ten essentials are the most important pieces of gear you need to survive in an emergency in the backcountry. They empower you to actively respond to a crisis instead of passively waiting for search and rescue to respond. You should tweak the specific equipment you bring on each hike according to conditions, but you should always have something for each of these ten categories.

1. Navigation Gear
I recommend bringing a map and compass. If you want to use GPS, get a dedicated unit. Phone batteries die quickly in the cold on a 14er. This 14er map pack works well for hiking Mount Lincoln.

2. Headlamp and Batteries
Even if you don’t plan to be out until dark, you can’t plan for everything. If you’re running behind, having the ability to see – and be seen – is everything. I recommend this headlamp from Black Diamond.

3. Emergency Shelter
When bad weather strikes without warning or someone falls and is injured, a shelter to get out of the elements can save your life. This emergency bivy works well for an easier peak like Mount Lincoln.

4. Extra Water
Bring 2 liters of water per person on your hike – if not more. You also want to bring a purification system to get more if you get stuck outside. That could be purification pills like these, or a lifestraw like this.

5. Extra Food
I recommend packing 1,000-2,000 extra calories while hiking Mount Lincoln. If you do get stuck out there longer than expected, some extra power gel or energy bars will make a big difference.

6. Knife or Multi-tool
The benefits of having this around in an emergency are self-evident: You can prepare firewood, create a shelter, fix gear, and solve other problems. I recommend a leatherman multitool, which is so much more helpful than just a knife.

7. Sunglasses and Sunscreen
The solar radiation is powerful when you are above the tree line. Bringing strong sunscren (60+ SPF) is recommended to avoid sunburn. Bring a pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes too.

8. Fire-Starting Kit
If you get stuck outdoors in the mountains, the cold is one of the biggest immediate threats to your life. Being able to start a fire can keep you alive through a cold night. Bring a small kit that includes matches and tinder for starting an emergency fire.

9. First Aid Kit
For hiking Mount Lincoln you don’t need to go overboard. Some bandages, moleskin, and pain relief medication is more than enough to deal with falls and scrapes, blisters, and altitude sickness. 

10. Extra Layers
Bring one layer beyond what you expect to wear. In summer, that usually means bringing an extra coat or jacket you keep packed away in your bag. If you end up stuck outside overnight with a broken ankle, you will very happy you brought it with. These nanopuff jackets from Patagonia are lightweight but provide a ton of warmth.

 

Satellite Messenger: InReach Mini 2

When something goes wrong out on the trail, it is immensely helpful to be able to contact search and rescue teams quickly. Most areas around Mount Lincoln do not have dependable cell service. A satellite messenger or personal locator beacon allows you to call for help in an emergency in almost any location. They are expensive and require a subscription, but they have saved many lives on peaks like Mount Lincoln.

I recommend the Garmin InReach Mini 2, with also offers premium GPS mapping in addition to text and SOS features.

Buy at REI →

Camping near Mount Lincoln:


There are also many dispersed camping opportunities along forest roads near the trailhead ideal for those visiting Mount Lincoln. Learn more about dispersed camping near 14ers here.

Lodging near Mount Lincoln:


There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Fairplay, Breckenridge, or Alma, ideal for staying before you hike Mount Lincoln.

Mount Lincoln and the rest of the Decalibron Loop is getting busier and busier with each passing season. The landowners ask that you follow Leave No Trace practices during your trip to help keep the Kite Lake area for wildlife and other visitors. These include the following tips:

  • 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.


Learn more about LNT outdoor ethics on the Colorado 14ers here.

Hiking a 14,000-foot peak like Mount Lincoln presents unique challenges that require specialized preparation and a strong focus on safety. Here are some essential safety tips to ensure a secure and rewarding ascent:

  1. Altitude Acclimatization: Spend time at higher elevations prior to your climb to acclimatize your body to the reduced levels of oxygen.

  2. Weather Forecast: Always check the weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes. Thunderstorms are particularly dangerous at high elevations.

  3. Start Early: Aim to complete your hike early in the day to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, which are common in the Rockies.

  4. Proper Gear: Equip yourself with moisture-wicking clothing, sun protection, sturdy hiking boots, and navigation tools. A gear checklist is vital.

  5. Hydration and Nutrition: Carry sufficient water and electrolyte-replenishing beverages. High-calorie, nutrient-dense foods are essential for maintaining energy levels.

  6. Fitness Level: Ensure you are in good physical condition. The stress of high-altitude hiking should not be underestimated.

  7. Route Planning: Stick to well-marked trails and be aware of alternative routes in case conditions require you to change your plans.

  8. Communication: Carry a fully charged mobile phone and consider investing in a satellite communicator, especially for more remote sections of the hike.

  9. Leave No Trace: Adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

  10. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first-aid kit, as well as emergency items like a whistle, fire starter, and emergency blanket.

  11. Pacing: Maintain a steady, sustainable pace. Overexertion can lead to fatigue and impaired decision-making.

  12. Group Hiking: Whenever possible, hike with a group and keep within sight and shouting distance of each other.

  13. Wildlife Awareness: Be cognizant of the local fauna. Keep a safe distance and know how to react in case of an encounter.

  14. Permits and Regulations: Before setting out, familiarize yourself with any permits you may need and adhere to all local rules and guidelines.

By following these mountain safety tips and best practices, you’ll ensure that your Decalibron Loop adventure is not just memorable, but also safe. Happy hiking! Read our Comprehensive Mountain Safety Guide to learn more.

Mount Lincoln stands as one of Colorado’s most prominent peaks, part of the prestigious club of mountains exceeding 14,000 feet, commonly known as “Fourteeners.” Located in the Mosquito Range, Mount Lincoln is situated within Park County and is easily accessible from the towns of Alma and Fairplay. With an elevation of 14,286 feet, it is the eighth highest peak in the state of Colorado.

Geological Features

Geologically, Mount Lincoln is primarily composed of granite and schist, showcasing the region’s intricate geological history. Its summit offers awe-inspiring vistas that include sprawling forests, alpine lakes, and neighboring peaks such as Mount Democrat and Mount Bross. The area also features a range of unique flora and fauna, making it an ecological haven for enthusiasts of natural history.

Climatic Conditions

The mountain experiences a subalpine to alpine climate, characterized by short summers and long, cold winters. Snow can be present at higher elevations even during the summer months, making it imperative for hikers to be prepared for a range of weather conditions.

Historical Significance

The mountain was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln and was officially designated as Mount Lincoln in the late 19th century. The area surrounding Mount Lincoln has a rich history that includes Native American habitation, early exploration by European settlers, and even a period of mining activity, evident from various abandoned mine shafts and prospecting sites in the vicinity.

Recreational Activities

Beyond hiking, Mount Lincoln serves as a hub for various outdoor activities including rock climbing, snowboarding, and skiing in the winter months. Its trails range from moderate to challenging, making it a suitable destination for both novice hikers and seasoned mountaineers. Anglers will also find opportunities for fishing in nearby streams and alpine lakes.

Conservation Efforts

Mount Lincoln and its surrounding areas are part of a larger conservation effort aimed at preserving Colorado’s unique mountain environments. As such, hikers are strongly encouraged to adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize human impact on this pristine landscape.

Mount Lincoln and the rest of the Decalibron Loop is a mix of private and public land. At this time, the route is open by the private landowners but requires a waiver due to liability concerns and other impacts. Please respect their request to help us protect access. Learn more at www.fixCRUS.org.

Pike-San Isabel National Forest Rules

Much of the route falls on USFS land in Pike-San Isabel National Forest. Follow their land management guidelines to limit your negative impact on the land and protect public access for the future.

Audio Devices: Keep the volume of audio devices low to not disturb others. Permits are required for public address systems.

Business Activities: All commercial activities require permits.

Campfires: Follow fire restrictions. Use established fire rings or stoves. Fires must be completely extinguished before leaving.

Camping: Camping is allowed with a 14-day limit. Vehicles must be parked in established sites. Remove all personal property and trash upon leaving.

Fee Areas: Fees are required for certain developed sites and must be paid in advance.

Fireworks and Firearms: Fireworks are prohibited. Firearms can’t be used near residences, roads, bodies of water, or where they may cause injury or damage.

General: Removing or disturbing natural resources requires a permit.

Geocaching: Permitted in general forest areas without causing resource damage or vandalism. Must not interfere with other permitted activities or historical sites.

Operation of Vehicles: Obey traffic laws and signs. Avoid damaging the land or vegetation. Parking only in marked areas.

Pets and Animals: Pets must be leashed in developed sites and are not allowed in swimming areas.

Property: Do not damage live trees or any historic or archeological resources. Respect private properties.

Public Behavior: Quiet hours are 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Keep noise at a reasonable level.

Sanitation: Dispose of garbage in provided containers or pack it out. Keep lakes, streams, and other water bodies clean.

Wilderness: Motor vehicles and motorized equipment are not allowed. Preserve the wilderness – “Leave only footprints, take only pictures.”

Learn more about these USFS guidelines and rules for visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below is a collection of frequently asked questions about hiking Mount Lincoln, designed to address key concerns and curiosities that you may have before embarking on this adventure.

 Have a question that we haven’t addressed below? Email us at info@thenextsummit.org and we can provide an answer and more details.

No, as of August 25, 2023, the Decalibron Loop is open to hikers who complete a liability waiver. The summit of Mount Bross remains closed to public access, but the loop can still be completed by following a bypass trails that skirts the summit. At this time, the Colorado Mountain Club considers reaching the high point along the bypass as a valid summit of Mount Bross.

A: The time required to climb Mount Lincoln varies depending on the trail chosen, weather conditions, and the individual hiker’s level of fitness. However, most hikers can complete the ascent and descent in 4 to 6 hours. It’s advisable to start early in the day to avoid afternoon thunderstorms common in the Rockies.

A: Yes, Mount Lincoln is open for climbing and is a popular hiking destination, particularly during the summer months. There are various trails suited for different skill levels, offering opportunities for both novice hikers and experienced mountaineers.

A: The difficulty of climbing Mount Lincoln depends on the route chosen and individual experience. Some trails are more moderate and can be managed by hikers with basic fitness levels, while others require advanced hiking skills and proper acclimatization. Always ensure you are well-prepared and consult reliable route guides before embarking on your journey.

A: Mount Lincoln is located in the Mosquito Range within Park County, Colorado. It is easily accessible from the nearby towns of Alma and Fairplay. The mountain stands as the eighth highest peak in the state and is a prominent feature within the Rocky Mountains.

A: Yes, Mount Lincoln is classified as a “Fourteener,” which means it has an elevation exceeding 14,000 feet. Specifically, its elevation is 14,286 feet, making it the eighth highest peak in Colorado.

A: Mount Lincoln has a rich history and geology. It was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln and is composed primarily of granite and schist. The area surrounding the mountain was once a hub for mining activity, and abandoned mine shafts can still be found in the vicinity. Its unique ecosystem includes a range of flora and fauna specific to alpine and subalpine climates.

A: Mount Lincoln is generally classified as a Class 2 hike, according to the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). This means that the hike may include some off-trail hiking with occasional use of hands for balance, but technical climbing skills are typically not required. Always take the necessary precautions for safety, especially when conditions are wet or icy.

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Notice: The material presented in this route guide may not be comprehensive or precise and should not be solely relied upon when planning your climb. Inadequate experience, physical fitness, supplies, or equipment may result in injury or fatality.

The Next Summit and the author(s) of this hiking guide offer no guarantees, neither explicit nor implied, regarding the accuracy or dependability of the information provided.

By utilizing the information herein, you agree to indemnify and absolve The Next Summit and the hiking guide author(s) from any claims and demands against them, including any legal fees and expenses. 

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Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located 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. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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