La Plata Peak – 14,336 feet

Happy Monday everyone!

Guess what? We finally conquered THAT mountain this weekend!

If y’all remember, we tried to to hike La Plata a few weekends back and ran into a minor snag when we …um…hiked the wrong mountain. Luckily, that set us up perfectly this weekend because we knew exactly where the trailhead was 🙂

Ellingwood Ridge– I’d like to try this climb one day!

Originally, we planned to head up on Friday night but Cindy and I both ended up working late. Instead, I awoke at 3:45 on Saturday morning to head to the hills. We arrived at the trailhead, just outside of Leadville, around 8am. It was a little later than I would have preferred, but what can you do…it just meant we had to be speedy hikers!

The first portion of the trail ran alongside the stream and had a fairly steep incline straight away. In fact, the trail was so steep that trail crews had installed 2×4 logs in order to create steps. Colorado crews only do this if the slope is steep enough to erode, so this was a sure sign that my quads would be screamin’ the next day.

We meandered through the trees for a few miles before we hit tree line and popped out into the sunshine. In Colorado, tree line is usually around 12,000 feet so this is always a good gauge of where you are on the mountain. The trailhead was at 10,000 feet, so we knew we had covered roughly half of the elevation gain.

Luckily, or unluckily, for us, the rest of the hike was equally as steep. In fact, for an “easy” 14er that is considered a walkup, this was a strenuous hike! The switchbacks were helpful, but my legs were definitely feeling it. It was around this time that the five of us — Heidi, Chris, Cindy, Craig, and myself — started to separate from each other on the trail.

You see, a unique factor about 14ers is that everyone truly needs to hike and climb at their own pace. Altitude effects everyone differently, and if you make someone go slower or faster than they need, it can really screw with their stride and endurance. I adapt to altitude better than most people, so being at high elevations does not have much effect on me. Because of this, I ended up at the front of the pack with the three pups, and we took off through the talus fields.

The talus field got a little tricky to navigate just because I needed to make sure all of the pups were out of the way of other hikers. Additionally, I had to assist them a few times so that they could clear some of the bigger rocks. It was slow going for 30 minutes or so, but the pups conquered the boulders with skill!

With about 5-600 feet left until the summit, we all started to notice that a storm was blowing in around us. I looked at the clouds carefully and decided that while it may rain on us, it truly did not look like a lightning storm. Colorado is known for apocalyptic storms above tree line, so we definitely wanted to remain safe. However, the majority of the other hikers decided to turn around and headed back down the mountain.

With the gray clouds looming, I picked up the pace a bit so I could get to the summit and get off as quickly as possible. The pups kept up with me and picked their way across the remaining talus…all the way to the summit!

I hung out on the summit for a bit and waited for the others to arrive. Cindy and Heidi arrived next, so naturally, we had to take a celebratory “the girls beat the guys to the summit” photo 🙂

Craig and Chris arrived at the summit shortly afterwards. Often, it is enjoyable to hang out on the peak, eat lunch, and take in the views, but not this time! We got our obligatory group photos, took a few panoramic shots, and booked it back down. I wanted to get below tree line STAT!

The hike down was a lot longer than any of us remembered, and it really started to stress our bodies. In fact, the hike seemed never ending!

Even worse? With roughly two miles to go, Tals started limping pretty severely and it got to the point where she would not even walk. I told everyone to go ahead because Tals and I were going to be super slow.

I quickly realized that while Tally was able to limp on the uphills and the flat portions of the trail, she literally could not go downhill. On the super steep downhills, like the previously mentioned wooden stairs, she would sit down and look at me, holding her paw up in the air for me to see. I was wicked tired at this point, but as y’all know, this dog is like my child! I didn’t know what else to do, so I scooped all 65 pounds of Tally into my arms and carried her down the stairs.

(Note: this is why I can never weight 200 lbs! Her additional weight on my body WRECKED my knees!!)

We all finally arrived back at the car, and I was more exhausted than I have been in a long time. Carrying her for the small bits had really shredded my knees, and I couldn’t even imagine how her poor little paw felt. Once we arrived at our campsite, I sat down to look at it in order to evaluate what she did. I was concerned that she had broken something, so I wanted to check it out.

Luckily, nothing is broken but she did an awesome job of shredding her little paw. She managed to rip off all the padding on her front right foot, so it is all exposed and tender. Cindy and I used our first aid kit to clean it, apply Neosporin, and wrap it with a bandage, but Tals is still a pain in the ass, injured or not. She spent the majority of the night in my tent licking and tugging at her foot until she could remove the bandage. Punk.

Overall impression? La Plata is a beautiful mountain and an awesome hike for beginners because there is absolutely nothing technical or difficult on this peak. However, make sure you are in good shape because that elevation gain will get ya! Overall stats for the mountain were 9 miles round trip with 4,336 feet of elevation gain. Yup, we averaged 1000 feet per mile gained. ZOIKS!

Do you hike with your pup? Does s/he wear booties?
Tals had a pair when she was younger but she ate them so I never replaced them and she has been fine since. Clearly, that is going to change now!

What is the hardest hike you’ve ever done?
I’ve had a couple of brutal ones but Mt. Rainier still comes to mind. 


  • Reply Britt @ Chicago Runner Girl at

    That is an incredible view! Looks like a great hike, even though you had to carry your pup. Hope her paw heals up nicely. My pups aren’t the hiking type…more like the snuggling type. Their legs are so short I don’t think they would make it up a mountain, so hiking boots wouldn’t exactly be the best investment. But they do have snow boots for the winter, and it is quite the project putting on 8 little booties.

  • Reply Bean at

    Looks like a great hike. I am not sure my dogs would make it that far. They are kind of delicate acting. Tals is super tough. We had booties for our dogs when we lived in Alaska but they wouldn’t move when we put them on so they never got used unless it was for our entertainment;)

  • Reply Suzanne at

    Riley hikes with us as you know, but after we moved into a condo, his paws got a lot more delicate from the carpet and lack of backyard to run around in. I took him up Grey Rock a couple summers ago and ended up having to carry him down the last section. Luckily I had a friend with me that took turns with me carrying him, cause it was dang near impossible. He had completely shredded BOTH of his front pads. I’ve been more wary about taking him hiking with me after that.

  • Reply Lena @Fit on the Rocks at

    Aww poor pup! I take my little dog hiking, but limit it to easier ones since a mile for me would probably feel like a marathon for his stumpy legs. Luckily, he’s never shredded the padding on his paw, but he was limping around after a long hike last summer since he’s used to carpet and clean sidewalks.

  • Reply Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog at

    Beautiful pictures! I haven’t done any really good hiking in about 8 years, but we used to do a hike in the Beartooth Mountains that was a 20 mile loop and the first part was all up a mountain. I had a shih tzu back then and she did not go on those hikes with me.

  • Reply Life After Swimming at

    Oh my goodness what an awesome hike!!! I can’t imagine carrying a puppy along the way though! Way to go, girl! Awesome pictures!

  • Reply Kayla Carruth @ kpLoving It at

    Oh my, I can’t imagine trying to carry your dog down a mountain. Just going down hill, period, is already hard enough on my knees!!! Hope they’re feeling better, cause you got some long runs ahead of you!!!! And poor Tals…… looked like she still enjoyed herself, though.

    Super beautiful pictures.

  • Reply Neon Blonde Runner at

    BEAUTIFUL photos oh my gosh!!

    Poor Tally, I hope her foot/paw feels better soon!! She’s in great hands 🙂 You’re such a great dog-mommy, carrying her down, I’m sure that was NOT easy.

    Also congrats on another 14-er!!

  • Reply Julia at

    omg! you are amazing that you carried Tals the entire way! i hope Tals is okay now! i hike with my dog a lot but when i have to stop to carry her its not too terrible since she is maybe 8lbs. haha! you amaze me! gorgeous views and photos! love the panoramic shots!

  • Reply Nathan at

    On the bright side you can check off La Plata! But totally feel for you and Tals. We’ve had enough 14er issues with our dogs that I don’t really enjoy taking them and no way could I carry one of em out, you rock! Our dogs don’t normally hike with their boots on, but we definitely take them for rocky or snowy places and more so early in the year when their paws are still getting tough. We also carry Mushers wax which could be a good option since it sounds like Tals likes to chew expensive boots.

  • Reply Ingunn at

    My dog doesn’t wear booties (we tried in the winter, but his paws are too narrow and they just slide off), but luckily he only weighs 18 lbs, so I know I would always be able to carry him out – he got cold when we went xc skiing in December, so my husband put him in his pack on the way back! It was pretty cute, and he seemed to like hanging out and enjoying the view. :o)

    • Reply Heather @ Just a Colorado Gal at

      I kept thinking about how I wished she fit in my backpack– it would have been weird and awkward, but it would have been much easier than carrying her the way I did!

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Did you just use the word zoiks? Oh yes, you did. I <3 you. As always, gorgeous photos and I'm so glad you finally got "that" mountain. Poor Miss Tally. I can only imagine the discomfort. Hugs and kisses to you =) Have a great week!

  • Reply Kara at

    Poor Tals! I would have totally carried Peanut down a mountain too!

    I always think “This is why I can’t be fat” when I feel how hard it is to run with pregnancy weight, so I’m glad I’m not alone in that logic 🙂

    • Reply Heather @ Just a Colorado Gal at

      She looked so miserable that I really didn’t see that I had any option 🙂 But yeah– it made me truly understand how much weight can effect your knees!

  • Reply PavementRunner at

    Those photos look friggin phenominal. Sorry about your pup. Poor baby. They always like to take their bandages off.

  • Reply Paulette at

    Great photos, poor little pup! What a great fur mama you are to carry her. 🙂

  • Reply misszippy at

    Ah, poor pup! They will do anything to stick with us, won’t they? What an awesome looking hike! The pics from the summit are amazing. You guys are hiking studs!

  • Reply Melissa Balogh at

    Aww, poor T-nizz!! She looks quite miserable in that last photo! 🙁

    • Reply Heather @ Just a Colorado Gal at

      She was just exhausted and sore 🙂 She is still tired today (4 days later, a new Tally record!) but her paw is getting much better!

  • Reply at

    Sounds like a fun day of hiking! My dog’s paws get shredded on the first big hike or bike after the winter. After that they calus up and get tough. The boots lasted on her like 2 minutes. She won’t wear them. Glad it was Tal’s paws and nothing else major.

  • Reply Suz and Allan at

    Poor girl! How is she doing today? I can’t even imagine how it much feel when dogs rip their paws open like that. Glad you guys finally conquered La Plata Peak!

  • Reply Charissa at

    What an adventure! And I have to say, I love everyone’s hiking gear…

    • Reply Heather @ Just a Colorado Gal at

      Ha, thanks! I got a lot of teasing because I was decked out 100% in Columbia gear, but most of us have been doing this stuff for awhile so we all fall into that “gear junky” category 🙂

  • Reply Jamie at

    That looks gorgeous! Poor Tally, I hope she is feeling better!

    We took Bernie on a hike last year, we did two mountains in one day and he did great. He was really tired by the end but he didn’t have booties on. We had to carry him up/down a few parts because his legs were too short!

  • Reply runnerblf at

    The trail is freaking tricky to find. We ended up missing it as well but hiked back country and hiked up Sayers then the back side of La Plata….ended up being a 9hr hike when we planned for four. Needless to say we got owned, but well worth it. La Plata is a fun one to hike!

    • Reply Heather @ Just a Colorado Gal at

      The sad part is that once you see the trailhead, you wonder how you ever missed it! I woke up early on Sunday morning and ran into some hikers on the road by our campsite…they were looking for the trailhead too, and had done EXACTLY the same thing we had done a few weeks back! Made me feel better at least 🙂

  • Reply Ali Mc at

    YAY HEATHER and FYI I love tals 🙂

  • Reply racingthestates at

    Beautiful pics! I take my dog hiking sometimes, the hardest he’s done is a trial that was pretty steep in fort collins. Ironically, i”ve lived in CO my whole life and have YET to hike a 14er I really want to do all of them. it’s on my bucket list.

  • Reply High Five Friday #21 at

    […] Heather gets a high five for hiking a mountain over 14,000 feet! […]

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.