Hiking Colorado’s ‘Decalibron’ loop: Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross

Nephew Jordan on Mount Democrat.

NOTE: Going through old trip reports, I’ve found a lot of them are long on storytelling and short on beta. So on occasion, I’m going to revisit a few peaks to give a more straightforward look at what it’s like to hike or climb these mountains.

There are few opportunities where you can combine four 14,000-foot summits within a relatively modest 7-plus miles, but that is what you get with the Lincoln Group – more commonly known as the Decalibron – in the heart of the Mosquito Range.

The Debalibron consists of four 14ers – Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross. Cameron, though above 14,000 feet, is an “unofficial” 14er due to the fact that it has less than 300 feet of prominence from nearby Mount Lincoln.

This is a fun day of straightforward hiking – a strong pair of legs and lungs are all that are needed, in addition to a sharp eye on the skies and the Ten Essentials most hikers carry in their day packs. If you catch it at the right time of year, the Decalibron can offer a wildflower bonanza. Either way, there are old mines to see, plus great views of nearby ranges. Much of the hike is above 13,000 feet.

Low on the trail above Kite Lake.

A little higher, above the ruins of an old mine.

From Kite Lake, follow the trail as it goes up the slopes toward a saddle between Mount Democrat (14,148 feet) and Mount Cameron (14,238 feet). You’ll pass some Kite Lake campsites, then follow the trail to the ruins of the Kentucky Belle Mine. From here, the trail ascends a rocky slope where you’ll gain much of the elevation in this hike. It will follow three switchbacks before hitting the saddle between Mount Democrat and Mount Cameron.

Going up the slopes of Mount Democrat.

Once at the saddle, go left and follow steeper switchbacks up to a broad, flatter area just below the summit. From here, hike to remaining couple of hundred yards to the top. The hike up Mount Democrat gains about 2,000 feet and is the hardest part of the route. Democrat is also a good point to stop, look at the weather and decide if you will move on to Mount Cameron.

On the summit of Mount Democrat.

From here, descend the mountain back to the saddle and follow the trail up the ridge on Cameron. The terrain steepens for a few hundred yards, then eases as the summit nears. Cameron’s summit is broad, and you get a good look toward Mount Lincoln and the remaining route toward Mount Bross. This is another good place to do a weather check and see if you will have time for what comes next.

Low on Cameron’s ridge, looking back at the saddle and Mount Democrat. This is a good view of the route of Mount Democrat.

Higher on Cameron’s ridge, with a nice view of Quandary Peak.

From the summit of Mount Cameron, looking at Mount Bross.

The moonscape summit of Mount Cameron, with a view of Mount Democrat.

The easiest part of the route is following the trail off Cameron’s moonscape-like summit toward the saddle between it and Mount Lincoln (14,286 feet). It’s a short descent, then a quick rise over a knob, then on to Lincoln’s true summit.

A short, easy walk to Mount Lincoln’s summit from Cameron.

From here, go back to the Cameron/Lincoln saddle and follow the trail that goes around Cameron’s south side. It continues between a long, broad connecting ridge to Mount Bross (14,172 feet). This is the longest section of the upper route, and is a mild grade in its entirety. The 1.5 mile hike to Bross ends either just short of the summit or, if you wish, follow one of the unmaintained trails (there are a few) to the top.

Looking back on Mount Lincoln while on the way to Mount Bross.

Something to keep in mind: The summit of Mount Bross is private property, so technically speaking, hitting its summit is an intrusion. But most people hike to its summit anyway.

On Mount Bross, heading down. Mount Democrat is to the left, Mount Cameron to the right.

Leaving Bross, head west down the ridge that slopes down toward Kite Lake. The hiking is easy at first, but degrades as you get lower and the route steepens. Loose footing is present until the route goes left of the ridge and follows a more solid, gentler decline that leads to the willows and the easy hiking back to the lake.

Going down Mount Bross. Lots of loose talus.

Lower on Mount Bross, heading back toward the trailhead.

The route is 7.25 miles from the lake. Going up Mount Democrat is Class 2; the rest of the hiking, with the exception of the descent off Bross, is Class 1. Danger from falls (exposure) is minimal, with the exception of a few points on the summit of Mount Lincoln, and even there it’s manageable. The route is straightforward and easy to follow on well-defined trails, though its can get somewhat murky coming off the loose talus on the lower part of Mount Bross.

Waterfall sighting close to the trailhead.

If you want to park by the Kite Lake trailhead, you’ll need to pay a $3 fee. Camping is available near the trailhead. The road to the trailhead can be somewhat rough, but most cars and trucks with some clearance can manage it. You can avoid the fee by parking below the parking area along the road, though that will add some length to your hike.

Want to read the original trip report? You can see it here.

Bob Doucette

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