Winter - CO 82 may or may not be open to South Fork Road, where you'll park to access the trailhead, and www.cotrip.org is no help! As of 1/18/03, Independence Pass was open 17 miles from CO 24. Park on the pull-out of CO 82 and you'll see the LaPlata Trail sign. Walk approx. 1/2 mile on road to the NFS sign saying "attention" - that's your cue to start on the LaPlata Trail by the short barbed wire fence. Path to LaPlata gulch is well-beaten and you will have no trouble finding it, even at 5 AM. Hike through riparian forest for approx. 2.5 miles. When the trail levels off, you'll see a willow-infested creekbed in front of you, and the first of several avalanche chutes on your right off the 12,600 peak. You'll also see the forest about to end on your left - at THIS point, start breaking your trail up the slope through the trees, as it will put you at the base and beginning of the red rocks traverse, with only about 100 feet of wind-scoured slope above treeline to cover. If you go too far south, you're in significant avalanche territory and once up, there's no way but down. Really fast. Once at the traverse, you've about a mile of windy ridge walk, plus a little push at the saddle, to LaPlata summit. Be comfortable in winter negotiating class III rocks in crampons. 9 miles R/T, car to car.
Submitted by: skibabeage on 2003-01-18
Route ID: 31013