La Plata Peak, with an elevation of 14,336 feet, is the fifth highest peak in the state of Colorado. This Fourteener's most striking features are its rugged north face and its northeast Ellingwood Ridge, named for Albert Ellingwood, a pioneer of technical climbing in the Rocky Mountains. Ellingwood was the first climber to tackle the ridge named in his honor, which, not surprisingly, has some very dangerous and challenging physical features. The first winter ascent of Ellingwood Ridge wasn't made until 1974.
La Plata's name is derived from the Spanish word for "silver," and comes from the numerous local deposits of the metal (the neighboring ghost towns of Hamilton and Winfield were important centers of silver mining in the early 1900s). La Plata is located within the San Isabel National Forest and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
One of two popular routes to the summit begins from a parking area on Colorado Highway 82 14.5 miles west of Balltown and 8.8 miles east of
Independence Pass. Space there fills up quickly, but you can turn south onto Forest Service Road 391 (South Fork Lake Creek Road) if your
vehicle has high clearance and can handle a rough drive. The trail itself starts from the highway and follows the northwest ridge between
La Plata Gulch and La Plata Basin. Average hike time: seven hours.
This page last updated 8/15/06