Directions: From Alma, CO head west on County Road 8, there is a small sign for Kite Lake. Soon you will enter the National Forest boundary and there will be more signs for Kite Lake. The road starts off rough but passable by most vehicles. As you get closer to Kite Lake, past the turn off for Windy Ridge, the road get rougher and rougher. 4WD or AWD high clearance vehicle is required. After you pass the pay station, there are numerous places to park on the side of the road, and hike the rest of the way to the Kite Lake Trailhead. Keep in mind that the parking at the trailhead fills up quickly so don't kill your vehicle trying to get there.
For the best hike descriptions, maps, and data on this and other Colorado 14ers, please visit www.14ers.com.
Mt. Democrat on its own is one of the easier 14ers that you’ll find. The hike itself has only a few steep sections and mostly follows a moderate grade. However, the elevation and the rockiness of the trail make this more than just a quick hike in the mountains. Most people hike Democrat as the first part of the Decalibron, see here, a 7.5 mile tour of the four 14ers on this ridge. However, climbing Democrat by itself is also a worthy undertaking. The western views from the summit are incredible and on a clear day you can see all the way to the Elk Mountains near Aspen.
From the Kite Lake Campground and trailhead, follow the obvious trail as it enters the basin and starts climbing up the southern slopes of Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron. There is a steep section at the start that passes by some mining ruins but after this spot the trail switchbacks gradually all the way to the Democrat/Cameron Saddle. The first really incredible views are from the saddle as it looks over the basin north of Democrat. Turn left (west) at the saddle to start the rocky climb up Democrat. The route is obvious and you just need to pick your way up.
After some effort you’ll reach a false summit which is really a large flat bench below the final push up to the summit. This section gives you an opportunity to catch your breath which may be further taken away by the increasingly amazing views in all directions. Cross the bench and give one last effort to gain the summit of Democrat. On the summit the great views you’ve seen so far reach their apex as you struggle to take it all in. The list of 14ers that you can spot is too long to detail but you’ll see all the mountain ranges that surround the centrally located Mosquito Range, be sure to look to the northwest for a great view of Mt. of the Holy Cross’s famous couloir.
The hike back down follows the same route back to the saddle and down to Kite Lake, or you can continue the Decalibron by heading up Mt. Cameron. Either adventure is sure to satisfy your craving for alpine scenery and high altitude hiking.
HIKES BY REGION
NATIONAL PARK HIKES
- BENT'S OLD FORT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
- COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
- CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
- DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
- FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
- MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
- ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
- GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
- HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
- SAND CREEK MASSACRE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
- YUCCA HOUSE NATIONAL MONUMENT
- HIKES BY CATEGORY
- $UPPORT GHC
- INTERACTIVE MAP
Mount Democrat 14,148 ft
Pike National Forest
Date Hiked: July 15, 2016
Distance: 4.2 mi (RT)
Elevation Gain: 2,250 ft
Elevation Min/Max: 11,900 to 14,148 ft
Trailhead Lat/Long: 39.325796º N; 106.128646º W
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Fee: $3 Parking at Kite Lake