“Life is a climb, but the view is great!”
On Saturday, September 11th my husband, dog: Boulder, and I awoke at 1 a.m. and hopped in the car to head to Missouri Mountain. We drove to the Missouri Gulch trailhead and got loaded up and on the trail at about 4 a.m. It was only 31 degrees out, so needless to say, it was a chilly start. The beginning 1 was a little steeper than I had remembered from doing the Mt. Belford & Mt. Oxford hike, but I feel like in the dark you can push through better because you don’t seeing the daunting trail ahead of you. At about 1.8 miles in we had to cross the Missouri Gulch stream, which the last time we had crossed was super high and a little intimidating in the dark, but this time it was low and easy to navigate. Once crossing here you’re already sitting at 10,800 feet.
Then from you continue your trek up, but it’s not as steep as the first mile was. You’ll hike along the gulch and come across a built shelter, which we saw two tents set up at. At this point you turn to a slight right and continue and start to trek out of the forest. The trail kind of levels out for a bit and boy does it feel nice on the legs.
At 11,600 feet you come to a split in the trail. The signs points left to Mt. Belford and right to Elkhead Pass. Take the Elkhead Pass trail right to continue towards Missouri Mountain. Shortly after the split you’ll cross the gulch again and continue up a smaller hill into a meadow where you will be able to see Missouri mountain straight ahead, unless you are us and it’s still dark out, you won’t see anything. Lol. You continue through this meadow for a while and you’ll hit another junction toward the end. You will continue right (West) and start some easy switch backs up to the right. Shortly it starts to get rockier. Now you’re head left up a rocky trail, it gets a little steeper here, but it’s a good trail and easy to follow. You will continue to you get all the way up to the saddle to the far right of Missouri Mountain. Once at the saddle you have a nice view of your surroundings.
Then you continue left and go up a very steep section, but it’s short and continue along the ridge line. There are a couple false summits so don’t get your hopes up too soon. Continue along the ridge and as the summit is close with in sight, you will have to drop down the ridge 20 feet on the right side briefly. And not going to lie, it was a little scary, but it’s super short and you just have to take your time. Try to stay on the high side next to the rocks. We went down lower and it was very loose rocks and I would have not been comfortable at all had I not had my poles dug in as I crossed. This is definitely the worst part of the whole hike. And I may have had a slight freak out on the way back when I slipped in this section climbing back up. Oops.
After you get across though you are right there! Just have to go a little further up to summit. From the top you get great views including Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford. It wasn’t too windy so we sat up there, had a snack and some coffee and enjoyed the sun on our backs. We talked to a couple people and apparently it’s common to do all three (Belford, Oxford, and Missouri) on the same day. Good luck to those that did. I unfortunately am not that ambitious! Overall, it was a beautiful hike and I would say one of the easier 14ers we’ve done. Don’t be afraid to get out there and enjoy all that nature has to offer. We are all so very fortunate for what we have and I am so grateful that I get the opportunity to enjoy all that beautiful Colorado has to offer. :)
Range: Sawatch Range
Trailhead: Missouri Gulch
Miles RT: 10.7
Start Elevation: 9,650
Elevation Gain: 4,500
Time: 4 hours to summit, about 3 hours down