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Climbing Mount Democrat

Route Description for 14,155-foot Mt. Democrat

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Jane Koerner crosses tundra on Buckskin Mountain with Mt. Democrat behind, Colorado.

The broad south face of Mount Democrat rises behind a hiker on the slopes of Buckskin Mountain.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green
  • Peak: Mount Democrat, 14,148 feet (4,314 meters)
  • Prominence: 748 feet (228 meters).
  • Location: Central Colorado. Northwest of Fairplay and east of Leadville. Located in Park and Lake counties.
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.33970° N / 106.1394° W
  • Difficulty: Class 2. Hiking and scrambling over boulders.
  • Trailhead Elevation: 12,000 feet at Kite Lake.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,150 feet from Kite Lake (rough 4-wheel-drive access). 2,750 feet from 11,400 feet (end of 2-wheel-drive access).
  • Round-Trip Distance: 4.0 miles from Kite Lake.
  • Maps: USGS Quads: Climax, Alma. Trails Illustrated: #109; Pike National Forest map.
  • Camping: Camping at Kite Lake.
  • Lodging: Hotels and motels are in Fairplay to the southeast.

Mount Democrat, a 14,155-foot-high mountain, rises just east of the Continental Divide at the northern end of the Mosquito Range, a long mountainous ridge with four 14,000-foot peaks that runs south from the Divide and Hoosier Pass to the twin Buffalo Peaks above Buena Vista in central Colorado.

Good Beginner’s Fourteener

Mount Democrat, Colorado’s 29th highest peak, is one of the easiest of Colorado’s 54 or 55 Fourteeners (depending on which criteria you use to decide what is a Fourteener). Democrat by itself is a great climb for novice mountaineers as well as children and lowland mountain climbers unaccustomed to Colorado’s thin air. Mount Democrat, however, is usually climbed in a day with two nearby peaks—14,286-foot Mount Lincoln and 14,172-foot Mount Bross—allowing climbers to easily bag three Fourteeners. Mount Sherman, another easy Fourteener, is a dozen miles to the south.

Democrat is Very Popular

Mount Democrat, Colorado’s 29th highest peak, is a fast hike if you are fit since you can park at 12,000 feet at Kite Lake, leaving only 2,000 feet of elevation gain to the summit and a round-trip hike of four miles. Because it’s close to the Front Range cities and is relatively easy to climb, Democrat is very popular in summer, particularly on weekends. Try to plan your ascent on a weekday to avoid crowds.

Best Season is Summer

The best time to climb Mount Democrat is from early June to mid-September. Expect snow on the east face of the mountain in June and bring an ice axe. The route is usually free of snow by early July and stays that way until the snow flies, usually in mid-September. Mount Democrat makes a good winter climb, although it requires skiing or snowshoeing up the road to Kite Lake from Alma. The route is generally free from avalanche danger. It’s also a fun snow climb in May when the snow has consolidated.

Watch for Thunderstorms and Lightning

Treat Mount Democrat with respect. Even though it is considered an easy climb, the mountain can be dangerous. Thunderstorms regularly brew up in the Colorado Rockies almost every afternoon and can quickly move onto the peak. Because you’re hiking up Democrat’s east flank, you’re unlikely to see weather forming to the west. Get an early start and plan to be off the summit by noon at the latest to avoid thunderstorms and lightning. Carry rain gear and extra clothes to avoid hypothermia as well as carry The Ten Essentials.

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