14er Peak Rank #18/53 and Rank #26/53

Mount Belford and Mount Oxford – both featured on Colorado 14ers Series Map 7 of 16 – are tucked in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of the Sawatch Range with summits only a 1.5 mile hike from one another. Often combined together or also in conjunction with nearby Missouri Mountain, these peaks offers a relatively easy approach and the ability to summit two 14ers in pretty quick succession.

Mount Belford north approach

Mount Belford, image by Simpsora – Own workCC BY 3.0Link

Mount Belford was named by a group of miners after James B. Belford – an associate justice of the supreme court for the Colorado Territory (before statehood) and later, upon admission as a state into the Union, as a congressman from the first district of Colorado from 1876-1877 and later from 1879-1885. Starting in 1889 and into the mid-1890s, Judge Belford acted as attorney for noted conman ‘Soapy’ Smith (named for selling soap to miners in Colorado) after Smith was charged with assaulting the editor of Rocky Mountain News.

James B Belford - Colorado Congressman
James B Belford - Colorado Congressman

James B. Belford

Mount Oxford (along with Mounts Harvard, Columbia, Yale and Princeton) is another of the five Collegiate Peaks. Named in 1925 for the University of Oxford in the UK by John Hart for the university that his brother (Stephen Hart) and colleague Albert Ellingwood attended. This was in keeping with the Collegiate Peaks naming tradition; Mount Oxford was the last Collegiate Peak to be so named.

Mount Oxford Colorado

Mount Oxford, by jokermanj – Mount OxfordCC BY 2.0Link

Mount Belford is often climbed via Missouri Gulch from the Missouri Gulch Trailhead (elevation 9,680′) at the edge of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness off County Road 390 in Chaffee County. From the trailhead, the trail climbs slowly south up the gulch before presenting the hiker after 1.9 miles with a choice of either taking the Class 2 (more difficult hiking) trail 1.8 miles the summit, or taking the longer, but more gentle Class 1 (trail walking) trail further along Missouri Gulch, up to Elkhead Pass and over the summit of Mount Belford (3.5 miles further).  Either option is relatively straightforward, with the more strenuous trail up the west slopes cutting off significant mileage. Whichever route is chose, the net elevation gain from trailhead to summit is about 4,520′.

Summit of Mount Belford Colorado

Summit of Mount Belford” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by andrew davidoff

Mount Oxford is usually accessed from a trail that splits off right/east from the Mount Belford trail from Elkhead Pass, 0.2 miles south of the Mount Belford summit. From this junction, it is a 1.3 mile (one-way) Class 2 trail to the summit of Mount Oxford. This option adds 2.6 miles to the Mount Belford trip, but if using the more direct (west slopes) trail to Mount Belford, that means that both of these summits can be climbed in a 10.4 mile round-trip (out-and-back) from the Missouri Gulch Trailhead. 

It is also possible to climb Mount Oxford from the east by leaving the Colorado Trail and at about 11,600′ elevation and following the ridge line of Waverly Mountain west to Oxford, but this is a primitive route with no trail and is about 3.5 miles one-way from the Colorado Trail.

A beautiful pair of Collegiate Peaks Wilderness 14ers, Mount Belford and Oxford make for a wonderful, but long, opportunity to hike to two summits in the same day. This makes for a lot of time above treeline, of course, so all typical precautions for high altitude hiking should be taken: drink plenty of water, monitor the weather carefully  as it can change very quickly always have your backcountry topo 14ers Maps with you – even if just a backup for device navigation. Mount Belford and Mount Oxford are two of the six fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Series Map 7 of 16.

Directions to Trailhead:

To get to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead, take Chaffe County Road 390 west off of US Hwy 24 (about 1.75 miles south of the small town of Granite, CO) for 7.75 miles to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead on the left side of the road.