One of our favorite activities that we haven’t had the chance to share with Scout yet has been the hiking and summiting of Colorado’s 14ers (mountains with summits above 14,000 feet). Ryan and I have done 18 so far, and figured that Scout would be the perfect hiking buddy for one of the “easy” mountains, Mt. Sherman! Standing at 14,036′, the trail is only 4.5 miles round trip with a total of 2,150ft in vertical gain.
The most popular route to the summit is out of Fairplay, but with how popular of a mountain this is, we decided to take the West Slopes from Iowa Gulch which is out of Leadville. It has slightly less mileage, making it a bit steeper.
The interesting thing about this trailhead is that it is on private property, which means no camping! So instead we found some Forest Service land just outside of Leadville (a half hour from the trailhead) to camp on the night before and would drive to the trailhead in the morning.
The road to the trailhead is well maintained, and any vehicle should be able to make it. There were a few rocks at the end that would require some navigating if you had no clearance, but our Subaru Outback made it with no problems. We made it to the trailhead at 6AM. We snagged the second-to-last parking spot (although there is tons more parking along the road on the shoulder) and started hiking!
The trail starts off gentle, moving through the grassy and wildflower-filled Iowa Gulch.
This doesn’t last for long though, and soon you are beginning your climb on a well-defined but rocky field of talus. It was easy to find the route, and we moved easily up this section with only a few breather-breaks to take in the views of Iowa Gulch behind us.
Soon the rocky trail leads you up the gully, where the trail switches to a combination of loose rock and dirt. I imagine that on this section the trail builders said something along the lines of, “Screw switchbacks! They’re dumb!” because the trail goes straight up the gully at an unrelenting incline. Several breaks later, we made it to the saddle at 7AM where the trail transitioned back into solid, stable rock trail.
Once in the saddle between Mt. Sherman and Mt. Sheridan (a 13er), our trail met up with the popular one from Fairplay and there were TONS of people! I was shocked! We joined the line of people heading up Mt. Sherman, put Scout on a leash in anticipation for the walk along the ridge, and began to make our way upward.
We took a few breather breaks to take a look at Mt. Sheridan behind us as well as Iowa Gulch beside us. It was fun to look at the tiny dots of cars where we started!
We made it to the summit at 8AM. This is BY FAR the least scenic summit I’ve ever been on. It was wide and flat at the top, with only the plains of Leadville and Fairplay surrounding the mountain. Plus, lots of people.
We were surprised to see the formation of rainclouds nearby, because from the gully it had been crystal clear skies! So we took our photo, had a snack, and headed down relatively quickly. Once we split off from the Standard Route to head back down Iowa Gulch, we quickly found ourselves as the only ones on the trail again.
The descent took us 2hrs, with lots of slipping and sliding down the gully. Once back in Iowa Gulch though, it was an incredibly relaxing end to our morning with an easy stroll through the grass, wildflowers, and rivers back to the car. At this point in the morning, several cars lined the road down from the trailhead (but we saw no people!).
While it was not our favorite 14er, we can successfully say that we’ve stood atop 18 peaks and Scout handled his first like a champ. He even found a stick at the trailhead when we were done and begged us for a game of fetch! I do think that we made the right decision to hike from the Leadville side of things, as it was far less crowded and seemed to be far more scenic. Happy trails!