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Mount Massive via East Slopes: Summiting Colorado's 2nd highest peak

Updated: Apr 28

Sunrise on Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

It ain’t first, but I’d disagree with Ricky Bobby and say number 2 ain’t too bad. And at only 11 feet shorter than Colorado’s highest peak, Mount Elbert, there’s plenty to love about this beautiful and manageable 14er.


Trail Info

Mount Massive via East Slopes Trail Information Table

Know before you go

  • This is one of Colorado's famous 14ers, so adequate preparation and planning are critical to summit safely. There are plenty of resources out there for how to minimize risk when summiting these high peaks. Start early, keep an eye on the weather, and aim to be below treeline before noon.

  • This is considered a Class 2 Scramble which means there will be some minor exposure and it will require the occasional use of hands. This scramble rating is only relevant near the summit, and in my (non-expert) opinion it's less intense than other class 2s.

  • There are two other routes to Mount Massive, but this is considered the standard route. You can summit via the shorter but steeper Southwest Slopes which leaves from the same area. Alternatively, you can summit via the East Ridge which is the most common winter route.

Other trails nearby

The tallest peak in Colorado, Mount Elbert, is just down the road from the Mount Massive trailhead. Want to summit both in one day? While it is possible, it would be a ridiculously long and hard day. But if you're going for efficiency, an alternate would be to camp at the Elbert Creek Campground and bag them on consecutive days.


The Trail

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

After parking your car in the dirt lot, head to the trailhead which is marked by this signage. Let's bag this thing!

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

The first portion of this trail is relatively tame. You will follow the Colorado Trail north and gain about 1,000 feet over the course of the first 3 miles before you hit the junction that leads you to Massive. The nice foliage and occasional views through the trees are a nice accompaniment for this little warmup part of the hike.

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

Right around 3 miles you will arrive at the junction where you will turn left to head to Massive. It's an obvious junction, but if you were heads down hiking, it could be possible to miss it. This is where the grade and intensity picks up.

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

This section switches through the trees until you get a good glimpse of the surrounding area. We see Twin Lakes, a lovely set of lakes which was my resupply stop along the Colorado Trail. (Side note, I hiked this peak during my SOBO thru-hike of the CT. I ended up camping right around this spot, so I could head up Massive for sunrise).

Sunrise on Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

There's nothing quite like being above the clouds as you greet a new day.

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

Navigation along this trail is straightforward. Simply follow the winding, beaten down path as you gain elevation. We will be heading between those two peaks. Massive is the peak to our right.

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

The trail will lead you to a saddle, where you will veer right to continue on to Massive. Be warned, the summit looks close from here, but that is just one of the false summits. The real summit is still a ways off.

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

Here's a shot looking back. From here you can see Mount Elbert. (Luckily, I had done that peak last summer, so there was little temptation to bag that summit as well while on the CT.)

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

The final approach after the saddle is where the terrain gets a bit rougher. You will be required to do some minor scrambling and walking over larger, loose boulders. While this is technically a Class 2 scramble, it is a tame Class 2. There are a few exposed sections, but nothing crazy.

Video perspective of one of the more narrow sections. Plenty of margin for error here :)

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

I took this shot looking West and was stunned by the red/orange huge of the early morning sun.

Mount Massive Trail in Colorado

Are we there yet? That point in the distance is the actual peak. While it was gorgeous being up on this ridge, it was blustery. My face became numb from the cold wind.

Mount Massive Summit in Colorado

We made it! The summit is marked by this rock ring formation. Unfortunately, this summit doesn't have anywhere to hide from that sharp wind.

Mount Massive Summit in Colorado

One selfie to prove I was here. Not a bad little side journey during my adventure on the CT!


SS Reflections

Conquering a 14er while thru hiking the CT felt like a daunting challenge. Yet the entire journey became one of my favorite moments on the CT. I camped completely alone just below treeline, then ascended for that insane sunrise. It was a moment of awe that felt like it was made just for me.

What’s more, this was just the start of a 28-mile day of hiking on the CT. It was my longest day to that point, and it would end up being my second longest day of the entire CT. It showed how much my body had already grown and adapted from 10 days on the trail. And with over 300 miles of the CT remaining, there was still plenty of growth yet to come.

Other Resources



DISCLAIMER: This website is for entertainment purposes only. The web designer and contributors are not liable for any injuries, accidents, or damages resulting from the use of information provided. Trail data, including trail statistics such as mileage and difficulty ratings, are provided as estimates based on the best available data at the time of publication and may not be 100% accurate. Conditions on trails can change; users should verify information with local authorities or  other reliable sources before embarking on any hiking or outdoor adventure. Hiking is a high-risk activity; individuals should know their limits, take precautions, and prioritize safety. By using this site, you acknowledge and accept these risks; the web designer and contributors are not legally responsible for any consequences.

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