Bootprints Hiking Guide: Mount Antero, Nathrop’s hometown 14er
June 3, 2017
Mount Antero (14,269 feet) is the 11th highest 14er in Colorado and surrounded by many of the highest. The hike to the summit is ranked in the middle of difficulty among 14ers, accessed most often by Baldwin Gulch, a four-wheel road. The area can be heavily used and noisy on summer weekends, which makes Mount Antero an ideal early-season destination to scratch your 14er itch. However, the west-facing approach can retain snowdrifts below tree line and on sheltered gulches into June.
The trail ascends south from 9,500 feet on Forest Service Road 277 to a creek crossing onto Forest Service Road 278 at 3 miles and 10,850 feet. This is an ideal area to establish a dispersed campsite for an overnight hike. In mid-summer, the nearby slopes are covered with various colors of paintbrush, fireweed and woolly alpine thistle. Since the complete ascent to the summit of Mount Antero and back to the trailhead is 14 miles, the hike is best broken into two days.
From the creek crossing, the road climbs east and southeast before rising on switchbacks on a steeper slope above tree line to a broad, flatter span of rock fields, which leads to the junction with Forest Service Road 278A.
The trail to the summit turns north at approximately 6 miles and 13,240 feet. The final stretch of the hike is the most technical, when the road terminates at the start of a catwalk on a very steep, narrow ridge. Once across the span, the trail becomes a somewhat indistinct creep up a loose talus field to a flat summit.
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Mount Princeton (14,197 feet) in the Collegiate Peaks range is a prominent landmark immediately north of Mount Antero. The view south of the summit is dominated by Mount White (13,667 feet). Across the large field of rock spread to the southeast are various roads once constructed to exploit gem discoveries on various mining claims scattered across Mount Antero. Aquamarine crystals are the primary gems sought by rock scavengers attracted to the mountain.
During late spring, Mount Antero is one of the easiest 14ers to access. However, nearby 14ers with east-facing paths may require less effort to gain summits during the early part of the year.
Mount Elbert (14,433 feet) can be approached from the southeast from the Forest Service campground near Twin Lakes. The west slope of Mount Yale (14,296) is fairly easy to ascend during winter from Cottonwood Canyon, and the Barr Trail up Pikes Peak (14,110) ascends the eastern slope from Manitou Springs. Breckenridge's hometown 14er, Quandary Peak (14,265 feet), is ranked among the easiest half-dozen of the 14ers and is usually blown clear of snow on the approach from the trailhead on the east side of the mountain. Due to conditions, it's always best to descend on the same route you followed for the ascent.
Mount Antero is 80 miles south of Summit County. From Interstate 70 at Copper Mountain, take Highway 91 south to Leadville, and then Highway 24 south to Buena Vista. Continue 8 miles south of Buena Vista on Federal Highway 285 to Nathrop. Immediately south of Nathrop, turn west onto Chaffee County 162. The Mount Antero trailhead is 12 miles from Nathrop.
Along the way, Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort is 8 miles east of the trailhead parking. There are also three primitive Forest Service campgrounds within 4 miles of the Antero trailhead at Baldwin Gulch: Mount Princeton, Chalk Lake and Cascade.
Author Kim Fenske has written extensively on hiking trails in Colorado. His writings include, "Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties," and "Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness," both available from Amazon Kindle books.