Hiking the Decalibron Loop

Hiking the Decalibron Loop | Best Advice, Route Info, & Maps

Please Follow Leave No Trace Ethics!

This area is increasingly popular and experiencing heavy impacts from public use. Please stay on the designated trail, pack out trash, practice good trail etiquette, and leave pets at home. Click here to learn more.

The Decalibron Loop consists of four 14ers: Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln and Mt Bross. It’s the one spot in Colorado you can climb four 14ers in a single day, if conditions and luck allows. The mountains all share a single ridgeline, making it a simple loop trail to reach them all.

Please remember that the summit of Mt. Bross is on private property and is closed at this time. You’ll likely see others climbing it, however this is endangering the open status of Mt. Lincoln & Democrat, as the owners are considering closing them as well to prevent trespassing on Mt. Bross. At this time, please use the Decalibron loop bypass trail just below the summit, which has granted access. 



On March 3, 2023, the Senate Judiciary voted down a bill that would’ve protected access to private land by strengthening landowner liability protections. As a result, the landowners of the Decalibron loop decided to close the peaks for the foreseeable future. Click here to learn more.

You can help us re-secure public access by taking action in three ways:

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

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

3. Visit www.fixCRUS.org to learn more or support the Coalition’s work.

Please respect this closure as a coalition of partners works to re-secure public access to these peaks. Thank you for understanding.

Decalibron Loop Fast Facts

Remember Mountain Safety Best Practices!

14ers can be dangerous due to altitude sickness, lightning, variable weather conditions, loose rock, and exposure. If you are new to hiking and climbing 14ers, click here and take a minute to review our safety tips and advice.

Hiking the Decalibron Loop - Kite Lake Route

Start your trip along the Decalibron Loop at the Kite Lake trailhead – it’s a rocky road but most 2WD vehicles can make it (I once managed it in a prius!). Head 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.

Park at the Kite Lake Trailhead and head north along the lake’s shoreline to begin the Decalibron Loop. While you can’t tell from looking at now, the lake gets its name from its kite-like shape. After a little bit of hiking, and after passing a through old mining remains, you’ll take a hard left before you head into a more rugged section of switchbacks. Your aim is the saddle between Mount Democrat to your left, and Mount Cameron to the right. 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 left to ascend Democrat’s north slope. The trail here is rugged, switchbacking up the mountain through boulders and rocks. Take your time and mind your step. Be wary of a false summit here, as you still have a short bit to go beyond what looks like the summit. 

Make it past this false point, pass another old mining ruin, and climb the final 150 feet or so to reach your first 14er summit of the day. Mount Democrat can be climbed as a single peak, in which case you can take the same route back to the trailhead. If you want to keep climbing, read on!

Once you’ve tagged Mount Democrat you can turn your attention to Mount Cameron and Mount Lincoln. Head down to the saddle the same way you ascended, and  then head up the ridge towards Mt Cameron. There may be snow and a cornice if you are hiking early in the year. Cameron has a very broad, flat summit, and can get extremely windy. The views are great, and the route on to Mount Lincoln is fairly obvious.

The short connecting traverse hike from Mount Cameron to Lincoln is very short – it will take you 10-15 minutes at most. There are more mining ruins to check out, and some steep drop-off’s and rocky sections that make this my favorite part of the hike, even though it never exceeds a class 1 difficulty level.

Mount Lincoln is a more rugged peak, with a little scrambling required to reach the summit. From the top, look north for a gorgeous view of Quandary Peak. Head back towards Mount Cameron before turning left to bypass its summit. Head towards the Cameron-Bross Saddle to its left.

Mount Bross is your last remaining peak, but it lies on private property. At this time, the landowners have not granted access out of concern regarding liability issues. Repeated trespassing is threatening access to Kite Lake and the entire Decalibron Loop. Please stick to the bypass trail below the summit Mount Bross and return once access is granted. (It’s being worked on by a coalition of concerned organizations including the Colorado Mountain Club and Colorado Fourteeners Initiative).

The path down Mount Bross is notorious for its steep profile and slippery, loose scree (pebbles and small rocks). When hiking down, they come loose repeatedly and act like marbles. Some people advocate climbing this section first, and descending from Democrat, to mitigate the issue. You can make the choice – just follow this route guide in reverse.

Along the route down, you’ll eventually take a sharp left to move across a gully, before continuing straight down its side. Be careful you don’t cross too early and get into more difficult terrain. Once off the scree, enjoy a last hike through meadows and across a stream to reach the Kite Lake trailhead where you first began! I hope you enjoyed hiking the Decalibron Loop!

If you need more information, check out the route guide on 14ers.com and summitpost.com. I hope you enjoyed my Decalibron Route Guide!

Decalibron Standard Route Guide

Feel free to print this topographical map of the Decalibron Loop. I recommend saving a digital copy on your phone, as well as bringing a backup paper copy in case anything goes wrong or your battery dies. You don’t want to be up there without a way to navigate.

Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before hiking the Decalibron Loop! These two resources are a good places to start your research:

Mountain Forecast for the Decalibron Loop

NOAA Weather Forecast for the Decalibron Loop

Bringing the right gear you will make your hike safer and more it more likely you reach the summit successfully. Here is what. I recommend bringing with you while hiking the Decalibron Loop.

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 the Decalibron Loop. 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 the Decalibron Loop.

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 the Decalibron.

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 the Decalibron Loop. 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 the Decalibron Loop 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 of the Decalibron loop 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 the Decalibron.

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 the Decalibron Loop:

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

Lodging near the Decalibron Loop:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Fairplay, Breckenridge, or Alma, ideal for those hiking the Decalibron Loop

The Decalibron Loop is getting busier and busier. The owners please 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.

Safe travels, and good luck hiking the Decalibron Loop! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.

The Decalibron is the only place in America where you can reach four 14,000 foot peaks through a single-day class 2 hike: Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. The area was heavily mined in the late 19th and early 20th century, with three of the peaks (Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross) privately owned through a series of mining claims. Access to the mountains has closed several times over the past 20 years due to liability concerns and overcrowding. 

Mount Lincoln was named during the Civil War by the miners from the north that were working and living on its slopes. A different mining group working nearby from further south named their peak Mount Democrat as an implicit rebuke to the other miners. Mount Bross was named for William Bross (1813-1889), Lieutenant Governor of Illinois from 1865 to 1869, who owned mining property near the town of Alma. He made an early ascent of Mount Lincoln in 1868 and was overcome by the beauty of the place. Mount Cameron’s name origin is less certain, either related to a Republican Senator or a Union General.

Many mining structures remain along the Decalibron Loop. Please stay away from them, stay on trail, and respect closed private property. This helps ensure the area remains open and accessible to those who come after you.

Q: How hard is the Decalibron loop?
A: The Decalibron is one of the easier 14er routes in Colorado. While there are four different fourteeners along the hike, the entire distance is 7.25 miles and 3,700 feet of gain. This is comparable to hiking Grays and Torreys Peak, another popular route for beginners. That said, it is a full-day hike that will tax your abilities, especially if you are not in shape or do not take time to acclimatize. 

Q: Is the Decalibron loop closed?
A: The Decalibron route was closed during the summer of 2021 due to liability concern among some of the private property owners. Three of the four major peaks are privately owned: Mount Democrat, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. Mount Cameron is on public property but can only be reached by passing through private land. Two of the peaks re-opened for 2022 but Mount Bross remains closed because some of the owners have not granted access.

Please help protect access to this area in the future by reamining on the bypass trail that skirts below the true summit.

Q: How long is the Decalibron loop?
A: The Decalibron loop is approximately 7.25 miles long – or 11.6 kilometers. Because it is a loop, you begin and end the hike in the same place from the Kite Lake Trailhead. You can go either direction, but most people report preferring a counter-clockwise direction to avoid going down the loose scree slope on Mount Bross. Typically, people take 6-8 hours to complete the full loop.

Q: What class is the Decalibron?
A: The Decalibron peaks are all class two scrambles. This means that while most of the route is hiking along a maintained trail, there are sections that require some easy scrambling – using your hands to move horizontally through and up rocky terrain. There is little to no exposure and no difficult scrambling or climbing as long as you stay on the correct route.

Q: What are the 4 14ers in one day?
A: The four Decalibron fourteeners include Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. Mount Cameron does not have at least 300 feet of prominence so it is not officially ranked by the USGS, however most climbers still choose to summit it because it is officially named and along the route anyway.

Hiking the Decalibron Loop 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.


Hiking the Decalibron and other mountains, scrambling, and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. 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, 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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