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Great Sand Dune NP, Pikes Peak and Mt Elbert


J-Squared
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We will be taking a family vacation to Colorado in late July. We will be spending part of our time in Great Sand Dunes NP, part in the Colorado Springs area and part in the Leadville area. I'm looking for suggestions on day trails at Great Sand Dunes NP. We plan to do some sandboarding but I would also like to hike some trails.

One of our planned activities in Colorado Springs is to take the tram to the top of Pikes Peak (we have some non-hikers in our group). A few of us thought about hiking down from the top. Any suggestions on trails? Should we plan on winter attire? I know weather is highly variable in the mountains but an idea of what is normal that time of year would be helpful.

Lastly, any trail condition reports on the South Mt Elbert Trail near Leadville? We attempted this trail a couple of years ago but found that we had not acclimated properly and ran into several snow fields. We made it within 1/4 mile of the top before turning back. Disappointing but we were at a point that it would have been dangerous to continue with the trail conditions and altitude problems. We went in late June so we are hoping that pushing it back a month will mean less snow to deal with. We also will have a 4-wheel drive this year which will allow us to start at the upper trailhead.

Suggestions on any of these places (or any other "must do" things) are greatly appreciated!

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I like your list - a bunch of my favorite things. Mt. Elbert should be in great shape. The only thing I'd add is a raft down the Arkansas River. And hang out in Leadville and see what happens. If you have time, try Mt. Yale & Mt. Sherman. Talk to any local you cross. This will be a great trip!

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Thanks for the reply! We are planning on whitewater rafting, probably through Bighorn Sheep Canyon since we have several who have never rafted before and the Royal Gorge trip looked a little intense! I also have reservations for the teens to do some rock climbing at Garden of the Gods.

We will have several days at Leadville, mostly just hanging out trying to acclimate. We are camping at Lakeview and will probably spend some time checking out the town. I read about the historic hotels there and thought they sounded interesting. The last time we were there, we left Indiana (elevation 900') spent the night in Omaha (elevation 2000') and then drove straight through to Lakeview Campground (9500'). We were out of breath just setting up the tents! We stayed 2 nights before attempting our hike of Mt. Elbert but still struggled with altitude. I'm hoping that by spending a week + in the Great Sand Dunes NP and Colorado Springs first, we will have started the acclimatization process before we even get to Leadville. Still going to give ourselves a couple days before any serious hiking as long as the weather cooperates.

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My parents lived in Colorado Springs for a while and I think it's fairly boring, except for Pikes Peak. I enjoyed the the little towns in the mountains a lot more. Don't over-think acclimatizing. I live at the beach and don't practice it at all (last weekend left my house before dawn and had hiked above 11,000' by lunch time). The high country air is short of oxygen and if you get sick you should go lower. But you probably won't, and you shouldn't waste a bunch of vacation time in Colo Spgs afraid your head is going to explode.

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J-Squared,

I drove by Mt Elbert this past weekend (coming and going to my destination--see trip report on Comanche peak). There is a fair amount of snow on the east and north aspects. I suspect that by late July you should be fine. I will be backpacking in the Maroon Bells over the July 4 weekend, and will be back by then. I will try to snap a picture for you, and post it on this thread.

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Thanks, John B, I would appreciate that greatly!  I'm actually starting to consider trying a different route (North Mt Elbert) but snow would definitely be a factor in my decision.  I know it'd be longer but it would be a new trail for me and some of the pictures I've seen from trip reports look fantastic.  I already have reservations at Lakeview Campground but thought about trying to get something at one of the RV parks near Leadville.  Since we will be spending a couple days just acclimating, I thought it would be nice to have more things to do.  Plus it would be nice for the non-hikers in our group.  If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on North vs South Mt Elbert trail, I'd be very interested in hearing them!

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  • 2 weeks later...

J-Squared,

Here are two shots of the east face of Mt Elbert from yesterday.  Took them on the way back to Denver from maroon bells 4 pass loop backpack (trip report coming soon!).  It was raining at the time, as Colorado continues to have wetter than normal weather.  Note that snow is getting much patchier.  In a couple of weeks you should be fine.  I met snow at 12,000 feet during my backpack in the Maroon Bells, but mostly on north and east slopes.

 

elbert 07 06 2015 1.jpg

elbert 07 06 2015 2.jpg

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