The DeCaLiBron is a 7.6 mile loop trail that starts at Kite Lake Campground and brings hikers up to a ridge line where they can summit Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln, and Mt Bross. Kite Lake Campground is located about 5.5 miles west of Alma, Colorado off of Buckskin Road.
The views from this trail are well worth the effort it takes to make it to the top. I’d always recommend starting out early in order to be off the trail in the sooner rather than later. Afternoon storms are common is this area and it is always better to be off the mountain before they roll in or else you could find yourself in some serious trouble.
Keep reading for a complete guide to hiking this trail and being ready for everything that it could throw at you while you’re out there.
The Road To Kite Lake Campground and Trailhead
There are many reports online that the road to Kite Lake Campground, where the closest trailhead to start up these peaks is located, is very bad and only a four wheel drive or lifted vehicles can make it. This might have been the case in years past but the road has actually been attended to in recent months and is not as rough as some make it out to be.
Although you will need a vehicle with decent clearance underneath, I saw many cars parked in the lot there that were sedans with fairly little clearance on the bottom. If worse comes to worse, it is very easy to park just a few hundred feet below the parking lot which is where the road gets the most treacherous for low clearance vehicles.
Campground Location: goo.gl/maps
Just leave your car on the side of the road and walk the rest of the way to the trailhead. It is not that far and you will be able to see the parking lot from where the road gets especially sketchy.
Make sure that you bring 3 dollars to pay the fee for parking in the lot if your car can make it that far. It is also only 12 dollars to camp overnight if you want. It will be extremely busy on the weekends so if you want a parking spot, make sure you are there as early as possible. It will fill up by around 4:30 am but you can still park on the road leading up.
To Go Clockwise or Counterclockwise?
Heading clockwise you will reach Mt Democrat first and counterclockwise heads up the summit of Mt Bross first. It honestly does not matter which direction you decide to go because both are tough trails up to the ridge line you will be hiking on.
The hike to Mt Bross has a lot of loose gravel so regardless of which direction you are headed, take it slow and careful throughout this section. In the photograph, hikers will be coming from the right hand side.
Alltrails Map: The Decalibron
Even when you reach Kite Lake Campground which sits around 12,000 ft, the air is going to be very thin. If you are coming from sea level, you might have a lot of trouble breathing there and should prepare yourself with warm up hikes beforehand if possible. Altitude sickness is a very serious condition so if you are concerned at all, bring some oxygen canisters that can be found in any hardware or general store on the drive to Alma.
Camping at Kite Lake for the night is a great way to acclimate yourself beforehand to make the hike a little bit easier on the lungs and to get and earlier start. However if you know what you are getting yourself into, you should have no problem arriving at the parking lot and heading out.
What We Encountered on Each Summit
Mt Democrat – 14,154 ft
This is the hardest of the peaks to summit. There is a lot of loose gravel and you might lose the trail at some points but it is easy enough to keep climbing upwards. There is a false summit that you will constantly see as you are headed towards the top from the saddle but just keep going. Once you reach that false summit, the real summit is not too much further and you will see it clearly.
Mt Cameron – 14,238 ft
You honestly might not even realize that you’ve reached the summit of Mt Cameron when you’re on it but you will clearly see a pile of rocks used to mark the top. It is a flat peak that might not be as memorable as the other three but will have to be crossed just to get to the others.
Mt Lincoln – 14,295 ft
The best views out of the four peaks listed here are from the top of Mt Lincoln. It is a majestic peak that offers an amazing 360 degree view. It is a little bit out of the way off of the loop trail but well worth going to the top of. It has more of a point at the top than any of the other three mountains.
Mt Bross – 14,177 ft
This peak was closed off for many years to hikers because it is owned by a local mine but has recently been reopened so please be respectful of the private land you will be on. There are many signs that say the peak is closed but that is not true anymore. Do not go in to any mines you find near the top as it is illegal and many could be in danger of collapsing with one wrong move.
If you are headed clockwise on the loop, there is a trail that can be used to skip the top if you do not wish to summit this peak and just want to head back to Kite Lake Campground. You can see this trail pictured below in the photo of Mt Bross.
Bringing The Right Gear
When attempting to reach the summit of any 14er, make sure you pack accordingly. Plan to start early and be on the mountain for at least 6 hours if you are a fast hiker and even more if you are not.
It will be cold and windy on most days at these altitudes so pack warm cloths, a bandanna or face guard, and a knit hat even at the beginning and end of summer. Don’t be surprised to see snow on these peaks throughout the year.
I’d also highly recommend packing more water and food than you might think you’ll need. The hike is grueling from start to finish so you will definitely want to give you body what it needs to keep going. Load up on carbohydrates the night before and bring plenty of high energy foods like bananas or protein bars. Again, pack more water than you think you’ll need because this is a very hard hike.
Making It Home Safe
When you head out to bag four peaks in a single day, many things can happen that are unplanned. Weather can roll in faster than expected and fatigue or altitude sickness could overcome you quickly. Always make sure you are physically ready for the next step. There are only a few ways down these mountains so do not try and take any unknown shortcuts because one slip could be fatal.
Making it off the mountain with your entire group safely should be your main priority. If you only get to the top of one summit, or even just up to the ridge line to see the views, it’s still an amazing day. Don’t risk your life just to get one more peak. If you know your limits and listen to your instincts, you should be just fine.
Also read: What Are The 10 Essentials for Day Hiking?
My Personal Experience and Final Thoughts
This is an amazing hike and the views throughout are unbelievable. I’d highly recommend getting out there and tackling these four peaks in a day if you think you can. Personally, I would head clockwise because having to summit Mt Democrat last would be very draining after already hiking all day.
The hike down Mt Bross can be treacherous but is very doable if you take your time or have trekking poles. As always, know what you’re getting yourself into and be prepared to have an amazing experience up above 14,000 feet. Good luck up there.
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Cameron is a freelance writer with a focus on hiking, fishing and photography. He studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder and now calls Chicago, Illinois home.