Standing at a height of 14,065 feet among a cluster of 14ers in the Sawatch Range, Missouri Mountain is as big on scenery as it is in elevation. The 11-mile out-and-back hike along the northwest ridge to the summit gains 4,500 feet and treats hikers to an ascent through aspens and pines, stream crossings, views of other 14ers, a fun traverse on a moderately exposed ridge, and stellar scenery from over 14,000 feet up.
The trail begins at the Missouri Gulch Trailhead, which is located 7.5 miles down unpaved County Road 390. Aside from a slew of avoidable potholes, this road is navigable by low-clearance two-wheel drive vehicles.
The hike starts by crossing a bridge over Clear Creek and tests fresh legs by climbing up switchbacks to a camping area near tree line. Missouri Mountain, Mount Belford (14,203 feet) and Mount Oxford (14,160 feet) are all accessible from Missouri Gulch, so all three can be bagged over a two days if you choose to camp overnight.
To hike Missouri, bear right at the junction at 11,600 feet toward Elkhead Pass and continue up a mellow grade through the open gulch toward a second junction; left takes you to Mount Belford and right leads to Missouri Mountain.
The hike then kicks into gear and ascends steeply up a series of switchbacks to gain the ridge and awesome views in all directions.
Following the ridge south toward the summit, hikers will reach the crux that involves a brief section of class 2+ scrambling down a 30-foot section with moderate exposure and loose dirt underfoot.
Continuing up toward the summit, the hiking is relatively easy. Once on top, Mount Belford is just across the gulch to the east and Mount Oxford lies just beyond. To the south is Emerald Peak (13,911 feet), and across the valley to the west is another 14er, Huron Peak (14,009 feet). Looking back north, almost the entire route up Missouri Gulch comes into view.
The trailhead parking lot fills up on summer weekends, so arrive early and begin the hike before sunrise to avoid crowds and, more importantly, afternoon thunderstorms.