La Plata Peak
Southwest Ridge
 Class 2 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Moderate
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Moderate  
Trailhead:West Winfield
Start:10,950 feet
Summit:14,336 feet
Total Gain:3,380 feet
RT Length:7.0 miles
Duration:User Climb Times
Author:Hiking Mike
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:407 reports
Cell Signal:31 reports
Sheriff:Chaffee: 719-539-2596
Forest:San Isabel
Wilderness:Collegiate Peaks
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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From Leadville: Drive 20 miles south on U.S. 24 and turn right on the Chaffee County 390 road.
From Buena Vista: Drive 14.5 miles north on U.S. 24 and turn left on the Chaffee County 390 road.
On the 390 road (dirt), drive 11.3 miles to Winfield. There are a bunch of log buildings here. Continue to a fork. The main road goes left but turn right onto the 4WD road for West Winfield. Parallel a fence for a bit before turning left. After about 0.4 miles, pass the Winfield Cemetery, which is marked by an explanatory sign. Shortly thereafter, pass a loop to your right, that provides some parking places. Continue a bit farther and you'll find a turn-off on the left that provides more parking. After driving approximately 1.7 miles up this 4WD road, a rough but obvious road rises to the right. Park near this junction or turn right up and drive the last few hundred yards and park below a gate where you'll find the start of the trail.


A distinct trail begins directly after the registration box - 1. Here, as on many parts of the trail below treeline, the tread itself is clearly defined, but foliage has grown thickly on its sides. It may be necessary to step over occasional fallen trees or push away willow branches, but the path is easy and unambiguous for now. Almost immediately, the trail crosses a small stream - 2- and then gradually moves toward and runs along another stream - 3. Eventually, the path moves away - 4 - and a spacious, scenic valley is revealed as treeline is reached - 5.

The path continues clearly enough to be followed easily through the willows and flowers contained within this vast space, although there is deep mud and a few shallow water crossings in some areas. Some spots are messy, but none are difficult. The trail then rises up out of the valley - 6. After the trail tops out here at about 12,800', it turns northward. Do not proceed down the other side, but rather look to the right for a trail with some cairns - 7. From here, the path traverses part of the top of the valley and it is easy to find good views of the ground already covered - 8.

The remaining part of the route, however, can be more difficult to spot, as the clear, cairned tread begins to dwindle. A switchbacking climb starts north-northeast up the prominent slope ahead - 9, 10. There are several large cairns toward the middle of this talus face that may prove helpful in finding a reasonable, trafficked route upward. There tend to be more cairns than tread at times, and attentive cairn-spotting can save time and energy. It is easy to digress from the main route here, and multiple paths serve as evidence that many have. Physically and technically, this is the climax of the route, making it a moderate class 2 hike. Approaching the apex of this slope at 14,000', continue between two small outcroppings with a cairn between them - 11. Cairns beyond this lead one to a point where much of the rest of the route, including the summit, is visible - 12.

Though the remaining route is very simple, the tread now becomes intermittent, with occasional cairns to show the way. Stay centered on the ridge until the third lump, and then proceed to the northwest (left) side - 13. There are scattered cairns on both sides, but there are more on the suggested side and there tend to be persistent snowfields on the southeast one. The last false summit is very close to the actual one - 14. The way should be clear, and there are many paths from which to choose - 15. In summer, the summit is a popular one, with hikers from all three routes coalescing on a single spot. The view is pleasant ( 16 and 17 should give an idea), and numerous other fourteeners can be seen.

1: A clear trail proceeds directly from the registration box.

2: Almost immediately, a small stream is crossed.

3: Soon the trail moves toward and runs along another, noisier stream.

4: As the trail approaches treeline, the path moves away from the stream.

5: Around treeline, a spacious valley opens up. The trail will proceed across it and rise out of it.

6: This is a closer view of the trail out of the valley. It is clearly visible from a distance.

7: The route continues to the right after the climb in the saddle.

8: Looking over the side, much of what has already been traveled can be viewed.

9: A switchbacking climb soon starts up the prominent north-northeast slope ahead. Look for large cairns toward the middle of its base to stay on track.

10: This is a view looking down from the middle of the aforementioned slope. Note the clarity of the trail and steepness.

11: Approaching the apex of the slope, continue between two small outcroppings with a cairn between them.

12: After reaching the ridge, the summit and much of the rest of the route is visible.

13: At the third lump in the ridge, proceed to the northwest (left) side.

14: The tread becomes more ambiguous, but the route is clear as the last false summit is approached, tending slightly left again.

15: Soon the summit is in view once more and the remainder is obvious.

16: Looking southwest from the summit.

17: Looking northeast from the summit.


The drive up the last several hundred yards of road is probably not even worth the wear and tear on vehicles considering how short this section is.
While this route may be less popular than the standard apprach of La Plata, by no means is it secluded.
Please note that the anomalies in the visual representation of the route on the map are due to scouting for cairns with a GPS in tow. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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