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On Walkabout On: Missouri Mountain via the Missouri Gulch Trailhead

Basic Information

  • Name: Missouri Mountain
  • Where: Buena Vista, Colorado
  • Max Elevation: 14,067 feet
  • Distance:  3.5 miles from Mt. Belford
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet from Mt. Belford
  • Time: 3-4 hours from Mt. Oxford
  • Difficulty: EasyModerateHardDifficult
  • More Information: 14ers.com

Route Up Missouri Mountain

Missouri Mountain Route

Topographic Map of Missouri Gulch

Elevation Map of Missouri Gulch


Note: The first bump is Mt. Belford, the 2nd bumb is Mt. Oxford, the third bump is Mt. Belford again, and the final bump is Missouri Mountain.

Narrative

After returning to the summit of the 14,197 foot Mt. Belford after completing the return traverse from the 14,153 foot Mt. Oxford I decided to take the Elkhead Pass Trail back to the Missouri Gulch trailhead (see above topographic map).  This trail is a longer walk back to the trailhead, but it is less steep and provides some fantastic views of the area; plus it goes right by the trailhead for the 14,067 foot Missouri Mountain.  I decided if I had the energy to hike up Missouri Mountain I would do so once I reached the trailhead.  As I walked along the Elkhead Pass Trail I had a spectacular view to the South looking down into a beautiful basin below the stunning 13,904 foot Emerald Peak:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

This high-altitude basin extended from Emerald Peak down towards the 14,420 foot Mt. Harvard pictured on the far left:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a panorama of the view from Elkhead Pass that I took using my iPhone 5S:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Looking towards the East the big bulk of Mt. Belford to include the red rock outcropping on its summit dominated the view:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The view to the South consisted of a high altitude marsh that extended down towards treeline:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

On the borders of this marsh there were a few wildflowers that could be seen growing:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The view to the West was dominated by Missouri Mountain:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Missouri Mountain is not a typical mountain because it is basically just one long ridgeline that just happens to have a point that reaches over 14,000 feet.  The most prominent point of the mountain looks like the summit, but it is not.  The below panorama I took shows the most prominent point on the right, but the actual summit is at the end of the ridgeline on the far left:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Something else that is unusual about this mountain is the amount of snow its holds deep into the summer when other mountains have had most of their snow melt away:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

This is due to the steepness of the mountain and the fact that the larger Mt. Belford shades this side of the mountain.  This below panorama contrasts all the snow on Missouri Mountain with Mt. Belford pictured on the far left:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

All of this snow makes Missouri Mountain one of the best places in the Sawatch Range for snow climbs using crampons and ice axes.  I was not about to try that, but when I reached the trailhead for Missouri Mountain designated by the below sign; I decided I did have enough energy to hike up what would be my third 14er of the day:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The trail going up Missouri Mountain is covered by a number of snowfields that caused me to put my gaiters on to keep the snow out of my boots.  On the higher elevations of the trail it became a rocky Class 2 hike where I took extra care to check my footing as I went up the mountain:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is the view of Mt. Belford that I had from the slopes of Missouri Mountain:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The below picture is of the most dangerous snowfield that needs to be crossed before reaching the summit ridgeline.  I was extra careful here because a slip would send me sliding down this steep snowfield into a bunch of rocks that would at a minimum cause serious injury:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Once I reached the top of the ridgeline I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the mountains to the West that were previously blocked by the massive ridgeline that is Missouri Mountain.  The most impressive view I had was of the 14,003 foot Huron Peak:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Despite being the smallest 14er in the Sawatch Range, Huron Peak has a beautiful pointed profile that makes it one of the most stunning mountains in the range.  Additionally since Huron Peak is located so deep within the mountains it offers amazing 360 degree views of the Sawatch Range.  You can read about my prior climb up Huron Peak at the below link:

Another noticeable peak I could see from the ridgeline was the 14,336 foot La Plata Peak rising to the North:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I haven’t climbed La Plata Peak yet, but I have it on my short list to climb this summer due to how striking its appearance is.  It is one of those mountains that just draws people to go climb it.  However, before I can get around to climbing La Plata, I had to first get up Missouri Mountain who’s summit could be found at the end of the long ridgeline that lied in front of me:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The ridgeline trail was in great shape and I quickly made my way towards the summit:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

There were a few areas of the ridge covered in snow that had a packed trail through it:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The area on the ridgeline where I took the most care was the final approach to the summit:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

On this section of the trail a bit of down climbing on loose rock is needed to access the final push to the summit.  The rock was very loose and I made sure there was no one below me that some of the rocks could fall on as I made my way towards the summit:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I soon found myself on the summit that is designated by patches of this orange and gold rock:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I do not know what mineral causes the color, but it is another unusual aspect of Missouri Mountain.  Something else I saw on the summit was another US Geological Survey marker:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I reached the summit at 12:30 PM which meant that it had taken me about 3.5 hours to hike back over Mt. Belford and up Missouri Mountain from Mt. Oxford.  The weather was absolutely beautiful now compared to the cold weather I experienced earlier in the day when I reached the summits of Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford.  Considering how nice the weather was I was surprised that I was the only person on the summit.  On the way up I saw a total of six people coming down the mountain and none coming up.  My only company on the summit was this marmot who appeared to be hanging around looking for a snack:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Unfortunately for him I had no snacks to share since I had already eaten all of my food.  I did have plenty of great views to share with the marmot though from the summit of Missouri Mountain.  Here is the view looking to the East right at Mt. Belford:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is the view looking towards the Northeast down into Missouri Gulch with the Mosquito Range visible to the far right across the Arkansas River Valley:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a closer look at the Mosquito Range:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The Mosquito Range has a collection of five 14ers which I have all hiked.  You can read about all of my prior hikes up these mountains at the below link:

Here is the view looking North with the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, the 14,433 foot Mt. Elbert visible in the distance on the far right and the fifth highest mountain in the Rockies, the 14,336 foot La Plata Peak visible on the left:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a closer look at the big round Mt. Elbert:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a closer look at La Plata Peak:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a panorama of the view looking towards the North with Mt. Belford on the right and the Missouri Mountain ridgeline on the left:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

To the West the view was dominated by Huron Peak:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

To the left of Huron Peak was the cluster of rugged 13-thousand foot peaks known as the Three Apostles:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Further out in the distance to the West I could see the rugged peaks of the Elk Range:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

To the Southwest I could see some of the high peaks that surround the Crested Butte area:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Even further out to the Southwest I could see the mighty 14,309 foot Uncompahgre Peak rising like a sentinel in the distance:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Uncompahgre Peak is an incredibly beautiful mountain that I climbed last summer.  You can read more about my hike up this great mountain at the below link:

On Walkabout On: Uncompahgre Peak via the Nellie Creek Trailhead

Here is a panorama looking towards the West where Huron Peak can be seen in the center of the photo:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

To the South I could see other high peaks of the Sawatch Range:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a closer look at the 14,196 foot Mt. Yale:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I climbed Mt. Yale earlier in the summer and the trip report from my hike can be read at the below link:

Further out in the distance to the South I could see the 14,269 foot Mt. Antero (left), the 14,229 foot Mt. Shavano (center), and the 14,155 foot Tabeguache Peak (right):

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I have hiked up all three of these peaks as well and trip reports from each of these mountains can be read at the below links:

The peak that most dominated the view to the South though was the always impressive Mt. Harvard:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a panorama of the entire basin between Missouri Mountain and Mt. Harvard:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is a wider panorama of the view looking towards the South with Mt. Harvard visible on the left:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

To the Southeast I could see the 13,326 foot Buffalo Peaks which designated the southern most portion of the Mosquito Range:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Further out in the distance I could see the 14,110 foot Pikes Peak:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

You can read about my prior hikes up Pikes Peak at the below links:

I spent about 30 minutes of the summit of Missouri Mountain enjoying the views with my new marmot friend.  However, it had been a long day so I decided it was time to start heading back down to the trailhead.  I left the summit at 1:00 PM and started making my way back across the long ridgeline:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Once again I was extra careful crossing the section of loose rock immediately below the summit:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

On the way back I actually ran into three people heading up the summit.  Like me they had also hiked up Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford.  So I wasn’t the only one having a long day in the mountains.  Here is another view of the ridgeline as I walked across it:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I finally came to the large snowfield that designated where the trail begins to descend the mountain from:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Once again I very carefully crossed this snowfield that had a dangerous drop off:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

It only took me about 45 minutes to descend the mountain and soon I was walking again across the high alpine marshes in Missouri Gulch:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

It was nice to walk on level ground for a while and enjoy the scenery:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Something else that was nice to see was all the wildflowers:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Blue Wildflowers Below Missouri Mountain, Colorado

As I neared treeline the trail began to run adjacent to the creek that drains Missouri Gulch that appears out of this snowfield:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The trail eventually crosses over this creek:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a view from the creek crossing looking back towards Missouri Mountain:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a panorama I took from the creek that captures the entire Missouri Mountain ridgeline:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is a view from the creek looking up at Mt. Belford that was directly across from me:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is a wide angle panorama of the entire Missouri Gulch from the creek crossing:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

From the creek crossing I began to descend back down into the forest below:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a view of Mt. Belford from treeline:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a view looking back up towards Missouri Mountain from treeline:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Here is a panorama looking back up Missouri Gulch from treeline:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

From treeline I descended back into the forest where I made good time getting down Missouri Gulch.  Soon enough I found myself back at the creek crossing that I had missed initially during the early morning hours ascending Missouri Gulch:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

From there I found myself walking down the long switchbacks to the trailhead:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The long descent was very hard on my knees after all the hiking I did, but I did enjoy the views of the aspen trees that surrounded the trail during the descent:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Shortly before reaching the trailhead I happened to spot a grave just off of the trail:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

It was the grave of a one month old child that died all the way back in 1884 that someone has nicely maintained after all these years:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Just a short distance passed the grave I crossed over the bridge where I could see Clear Creek roaring underneath it:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

The rivers in the area have been running extremely high this year due to the immense snow pack the mountains received this winter.  Rafting on the nearby Arkansas River has been reportedly outstanding this year.  After crossing the bridge I then found myself back at the trailhead parking lot:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

I arrived at the trailhead at 3:45 PM which meant it had taken me 2 hours and 45 minutes to walk back to the trailhead from Missouri Mountain.  Despite being late in the afternoon, the trailhead still had a lot of cars parked in it.  In fact when I drove out of the lot I could see cars parked along the side of Clear Creek Road for quite a ways which shows how popular this trail is on weekends.  On the drive back down Clear Creek Road the only mountain that I climbed that day that was visible was Mt. Oxford.  So I stopped and took a picture of the mountain that earlier that morning I had been standing on top of in freezing temperatures:

Picture from Missouri Mountain, Colorado

Conclusion

In total my hike up Mt. Belford, Mt. Oxford, and Missouri Mountain took approximately 11 hours and 30 minutes.  I walked 15.2 miles and had an ascent of 7,206 feet.  This definitely makes for a long day, but it was worth it to knock out three 14ers at once.  If you have the fitness level and good weather conditions I highly recommend trying to hike up Missouri Mountain as well considering it adds just 1,600 feet of elevation gain and 4 miles to the hike.  Without a doubt Missouri Mountain was the most interesting of the three mountains on this hike.  For those just looking to hike one mountain in Missouri Gulch then I recommend Missouri Mountain because Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford are honestly pretty boring summits.  However, even on a boring summit I still have a great time being outdoors in Colorado.

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