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On Walkabout On: Mt. Democrat, Colorado via the Kite Lake Trailhead

Basic Information

  • Name: Mt. Democrat
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • Where: Alma, Colorado
  • Elevation: 14,148 feet (4,314 meters)
  • Distance: 1 mile to Summit of Mt. Democrat
  • Time: 1-2 hours to the summit of Mt. Democrat
  • Elevation Gain: 3,481 feet
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • More Information: 14ers.com

Route Up Mt. Democrat

Picture from My Hike On the DeCaLiBron

Topographic Map of DeCaLiBron Trail

Picture from My Hike On the DeCaLiBron

Elevation Graph of the DeCaLiBron

DeCaLiBron Elevation Graph

Narrative

I have been meaning to all summer to complete a popular hike in Colorado known as the DeCaLiBron.  This hike gets its name because it is possible to summit four 14ers all in one hike.  The names of these mountains are Mt. Democrat, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Lincoln,  and Mt. Bross; thus the names from each peak have been shortened to come up with the name DeCaLiBron.  The trailhead for the DeCaLiBron is located at Kite Lake which is just outside of the village of Alma.  I woke up early on a Saturday in mid-September and left my home in Colorado Springs at 3:30 AM.  It was a dark and uneventful ride to Alma via Highway 24 and Highway 9:


View Larger Map

From Alma I took Buckskin St. that turns into a dirt road that leads to Kite Lake.  The road is bumpy in spots, but a 2-wheel drive vehicle in good weather can take this road all the way to the trailhead.  At the trailhead you have to pay $3 to park there or you can do what I did and park a little ways down the road and pay nothing.  I started my hike at 5:30 AM and it was still dark out.  I was quite surprised how busy the place was.  There is a campground at the trailhead that was packed with cars and there was a continuous amount of headlights that could be seen heading up the road trying to find a place to park.  I knew this hike was popular, but I didn’t realize it was this popular.  At the trailhead there are signs posted that discuss the route up the mountain, but it was dark so I did not spend any time checking out the signs.  After I completed my hike I did check out the signs and found that they had good maps and information about the trail:

Signs at Trailhead for Mt. Democrat

Signs at Trailhead for Mt. Democrat

I thought this picture that shows an aerial view of the DeCaLiBron route was quite interesting:

Signs at Trailhead for Mt. Democrat

The approximately mile long trail to Mt. Democrat begins at the signs.  However, Buckskin Creek that begins at Kite Lake was running high with water from all the rain we have been having in Colorado and I would have had to take off my boots to cross the creek.  Instead I saw the headlamps of a group of other hikers skirting around the left side of the lake.  I decided to follow them.  The route around the lake made the overall hike a little longer, but at least I did not have to take off my boots to cross the creek.  As I hiked around the lake I could see a snake like procession of headlamps heading up to the summit of Mt. Democrat in the darkness.  It wasn’t until I began to hike up to the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron that I had enough light to start taking pictures.  Considering the rich mining history of the Mosquito Range it was no surprise that the first thing I saw was the remnants of an old mining operation:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

Unlike its 14er neighbor Mt. Sherman, the mountains here do not have any impressive mining structures still standing.  They are all smashed and worn down like this building below:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

According to the book “A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners: Twentieth Anniversary Edition the name Mt. Democrat came from these miners.  In the 1860’s nearby Mt. Lincoln was so named by miners who wanted to honor the late American president.  However, a group of miners from the South were upset with the naming of the mountain and thus decided to start calling the mountain they were working on Mt. Democrat in response.  The name of the mountain was originally “Buckskin” which would match the name of the creek flowing from the mountain today.   Over time the name Mt. Democrat stuck and was officially recorded in the Land Office Survey of 1883.

As I hiked up the saddle I also began to have some good views of the basin down below which took my attention away from the area’s mining past.  From above it was easy to see how Kite Lake received its name because it really does look like a kite:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

I was also getting my first views of what I thought was the summit of Mt. Democrat from just below the saddle.  I would later find out that this was in fact a false summit that I was looking at:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

Here is a panorama I took that shows the 14,148 foot Mt. Democrat on the left and the ridgeline leading to the 14,238 Mt. Cameron on the right:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

As I neared the top of the saddle the trail became quite rocky with a few loose rocks, but nothing too difficult to pass:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

It was in this section of loose rocks that I saw my first and only wildlife during the trip.  In the below picture if you look closely at the very center of it you can see a small pika:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

These little critters could be seen jumping all around the various rocks on the higher slopes of the DeCaLiBron.  Besides the pikas that was it for wildlife that I saw the entire day.  Usually I see marmots living at high altitude as well, but there was none to be found on these slopes.

Once I reached the saddle I had a nice view of the sun’s rays striking the peaks below:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

I also for the first time had a view of the mountains rising to the north of Mt. Democrat to include the 14,265 foot Quandary Peak which can be seen on the far right of the below photo:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

It was pretty amazing how different these mountains look when not covered in snow.  The last time I had viewed these mountains was when I did a May snow climb of Quandary Peak.  I had to contend with some very deep snow that even my snowshoes at times had difficulty dealing with.  Now there was no snow to be seen anywhere.

You can read more about my prior hike to the summit of Quandary Peak at the below link:

From the saddle I could see what remained of the hike to the summit of Mt. Democrat.  From the saddle the trail switchbacks up the side of the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

As I ascended up the mountain I could see the sun’s rays begin to illuminate the summit of the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

The trial leading up Mt. Democrat I found to be the tougher than expected simply because of the loose rock that forced me to be very careful with my footing:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

Eventually I reached the false summit of Mt. Democrat.  From the false summit I had to head west across a small plateau that led to the actual summit of the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

After a short 10 minute walk I found myself on the summit of Mt. Democrat:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

As expected Mt. Democrat had sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.  Here is the view looking to the west where the Sawatch Range can be seen in the distance:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

The two highest mountains in Colorado could be seen from the summit of Mt. Democrat which are located in the Sawatch Range.  They are the 14,433 foot Mt. Elbert pictured on the far left and the 14,421 foot Mt. Massive pictured on the right:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

To the southwest the rest of the Mosquito Range could be seen to include the 14,036 foot Mt. Sherman visible in the far distance:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

You can read more about my prior hike up Mt. Sherman at the below link:

Here is a panorama of the view to the west:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

Here is the view looking south towards the trailhead at Kite Lake:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

To the east I was looking right at the sun as it rose above Mt. Bross:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

The the north I could see the Ten Mile Range running to Quandary Peak in the distance :

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

In this panorama picture looking towards the north, the 14,286 foot Mt. Lincoln can be seen on the far right and Quandary Peak in the distance towards the center:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

In the distance to the north I could see the rugged Gore Range:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

The Gore Range has no 14ers in it, but from what I have read this range contains some of the most rugged peaks in Colorado.  To the northwest I could see a mining operation in the valley down below as well as the northern most peaks of the Sawatch Range in the distance:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

The northern most peaks of the Sawatch Range includes the 14,005 foot Mt. of the Holy Cross:

Picture from Mt. Democrat, Colorado

The Mt. of the Holy Cross is famous for its snow created white cross that can be seen in the spring time and early summer before the snows melt.  I had a great view of the cross back in June when viewed from the summit of the 14,270 foot Grays Peak.  Since it was mid-September there was no hint of the cross now.

Conclusion

I spent about 30 minutes on the summit of Mt. Democrat taking in the views, drinking some water, and eating some snacks for breakfast.  It took me a little over an hour to get to the summit of Mt. Democrat and besides the loose rock it is a pretty easy climb.  So for people looking for a beginner 14er to try out, Mt. Democrat should definitely be a candidate.  Because the mountain is so easy to climb, it sees a lot of hikers.  The longer I stayed up there the more packed the summit became.  It looked like many people began the hike up the mountain at 6AM judging by the hordes of people arriving on the summit.  It got to the point that it was hard to move around to take pictures.  This was my cue that it was time to go and head for my next destination on the DeCaLiBron hike, Mt. Cameron.

Next Posting: On Walkabout On: Mt. Cameron, Colorado

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