La Plata Peak is the fifth-highest summit in the Rocky Mountains. The prominent 14,343-foot peak is located in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of San Isabel National Forest. The 9.2-mile hike to the summit makes for a very beautiful and very long day; while an excellent hike, this may not be the best choice for your first 14er.
The most popular parking spot for the La Plata Peak Trail is located just off of Highway 82, though the trailhead is actually located about a five-minute walk up 82C, a dirt road leaving to the south that quickly crosses North Fork Lake Creek.
Once on the trail you will quickly cross a bridge where South Fork Lake Creek tumbles into some nice cascades. Turn right on the trail following the bridge. Hike for another half mile through the forest to encounter another stream crossing, after which the grade becomes considerably steeper. You will climb about 1,500 feet over the next few miles before the trail levels off a bit in a valley.
After about a mile in the valley the trail heads up to the top of La Plata Peak with an abundance of switchbacks that lead to a ridge. More switchbacks await, then some scrambling. You'll likely notice several false summits, so stay focused on your destination. As you near the top the trail will cut left to the summit. Congratulations on reaching the fifth-highest 14er in the Rockies!
Note that, as with all Rocky Mountain hikes, afternoon thunderstorms are a common occurrence. Plan to start your hike very early in the day to be safely off of the summit by the time these systems develop.