The stunning La Plata Mountains can be found nestled into the southwestern corner of Colorado, just northwest of Durango. This branch of the San Juans is home to 18 unique peaks measuring over 12000 feet and is the traditional home of the Ute People.
The five highest summits are as follows:
- Hesperus Mountain – 13,232’
- Lavender Peak – 13,228’
- Mount Moss – 13,192’
- Babcock Peak – 13,180’
- Centennial Peak – 13,062’
La Plata means ‘silver’ in Spanish, as the mountains were once home to a minor mining community established after news spread of gold and silver found on the banks of the La Plata River. In modern times, outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to the range from far and wide for its scenic hikes lined with wildflowers and cascading waterfalls of new snowmelt.
American Cartographer William Henry Holmes was so struck by Hesperus Mountain that he gave the peak its commonly used name in reference to the Greek word for Venus, or ‘evening star’.
While not qualifying as a 14er, Hesperus Mountain is the highest point in both the La Platas and Montezuma County reaching a height of 13,232 feet. It’s easily identifiable due to the prominent geological bands near its summit.
Hesperus Mountain is the highest, and therefor most widely climbed peak in the area, offering beautiful views of Mesa Verde and Shiprock to the south, while the Grenadiers and the San Miguel Range can be seen to the north.
This peak is one of four specific mountains sacred to the Navajo People and has been known to them as Dibé Ntsaa, which marks the northernmost boundary of their territorial homeland.
Road and trail access in the La Platas is most often found in the form of old mining roads. Some may be accessible with 4×4 vehicles, but we advise doing thorough research before heading out on a route.
There are countless great hikes, views, and drives to experience in this beautiful range. A section of the 500-mile-long Colorado Trail passes through the La Platas starting up on Kennebec Pass. The serene Taylor Lake is also only a short hike from the top. Popular seasonal activities include:
Biking – La Plata Canyon road starts off as a fairly easy ride along the river, then quickly gains elevation and scenic views as it continues.
Camping – Established campsites and backpacking routes are both available, just remember to get a permit and stay informed of any current fire restrictions.
Read about the camping near Durango and Bayfield.
Hiking – There are countless backcountry trails of varying lengths accessible to hikers.
Swimming – In warmer months, cooling off in the La Plata River makes for a great afternoon.
The La Platas are most simply accessed via the road out through La Plata Canyon and up to Kennebec Pass. Take the hwy 124 exit in the town of Hesperus, about ten miles west of Durango along US 160.
Follow the route for around 15 miles and you’ll find yourself atop Kennebec Pass in the heart of the La Plata range. Don’t forget your bike!
Primary Range: San Juan Mountains
Elevation: 13,232 feet (4,033 meters) – highest point: Hesperus Peak