Mount Belford, a Colorado Fourteener is moderately difficult, with spectacular views of other peaks and a large alpine valley. The mountain makes a great weekend challenge for those looking to hike a Colorado summit.
How to Get To the Mount Belford Trail Head
Drive either south from Leadville or north from Buena Vista on U.S. Highway 24, then turn onto Chaffee County road 390, a dirt road, and drive until reaching the parking lot for Missouri Gulch. The dirt road is a washboard, with some pot holes, but non four wheel drive vehicles can navigate it.
Missouri Gulch Trail Head
The trail head for Belford begins at a large dirt parking lot on the left side of Chaffee County Road 390. The trail starts behind an official USFS sign, and crosses a wooden bridge which spans a creek. Camping is not allowed in the parking lot, although there are campsites along the dirt road, and there is a pit-toilet restroom facility in the parking lot. This trail head leads hikers into Missouri Gulch, which is the starting point for not only Belford, but also Oxford and Missouri mountains.
The Grave on the Mount Belford Trail
As the trail continues beyond the stream, there is a small grave on the left side of the trail, dedicated to a baby that died during the 1800s. The trail is well graded, and switchbacks up into Missouri Gulch. When it reaches the tree line, there is an alpine stream flowing on the right side of the trail, and on the left an abandoned cabin. This spot is popular with overnight campers, and on a weekend there may be tents near the cabin.
The Alpine Zone
Once past the cabin the trees quickly thin out into the exposed alpine zone. If there is a thunderstorm building, this might be the point to turn around, as the rest of the route leaves hikers exposed. The trail will eventually split, the left trail continuing up to Mt. Belford, and the right path takes hikers to Missouri Mountain, another Fourteener.
Getting to the Summit of Mount Belford
The trail begins to cut sharply up the ridge towards Belford’s summit. The switchbacks are tighter, and the trail surface more unstable with loose dirt. This is a good spot to break out trekking poles to maintain stability. Once on the summit, it is possible to view Mt. Oxford in the distance, as well as Missouri Mountain across the valley. Hikers can continue on to Mt. Oxford for an additional challenge. However, if the weather looks threatening, consider turning around to get back to the safety of the tree line.