It’s hard to imagine a more iconic Colorado mountain than Mount Massive. Aptly-named, this peak and its five summits and jagged spires preside over Leadville and Lake County like a mighty lord. At 14,421 feet, it’s Colorado’s second-highest peak, with more terrain above 14,000 than any other peak in the Lower 48. It’s also a joy to experience, a scenic playground above the clouds that never seems to end.
“This was one of the first 14ers I climbed, and the ascent via the standard route is a brutal 14-mile day with 4,500 feet of elevation gain. I came back the next summer with friends with a Jeep and we were able to climb it via the southwest slopes, a much more direct and preferable route up Colorado’s second-highest peak.”
There are many routes to climb this large, complicated peak, but the easiest is via the southwest slopes, a relatively new trail with a round-trip length of 8 miles, compared to 14 for the other two routes. A high-clearance vehicle is required.
You’ll find plenty of free camping – but not much solitude on summer weekends – along the Halfmoon Creek Road, which is fine for passenger cars up to the main trailhead.
Celebrate your successful ascent with a stop in historic Leadville, the highest city in North America, for a beer at Periodic Brewing Co.
Recommended season(s): Summer to early fall
—R. Scott Rappold