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Who Discovered Mount Lincoln?

Unveiling the Discovery of Mount Lincoln: A Journey Through History

Mount Lincoln

Mount Lincoln

Mount Lincoln, towering at an impressive 14,293 feet (4,356.5 meters), is the eighth-highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the highest peak of the Mosquito Range. It stands as a testament to the rugged beauty and rich history of the Colorado Rockies. This fourteener is not just a natural marvel but also a historical landmark named in honor of one of America’s most revered presidents. But who discovered Mount Lincoln? The history of its discovery is as fascinating as the peak itself, involving early explorers, geologists, and the vibrant culture of the mining era.

The Early Explorers and Native Inhabitants

Before delving into the specifics of who discovered Mount Lincoln, it’s essential to acknowledge the Native American tribes who inhabited the region long before European explorers arrived. Tribes such as the Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne lived in the area for centuries, using the land for hunting, fishing, and gathering. These indigenous people had an intimate knowledge of the mountains, valleys, and passes, which were integral to their way of life.

The Age of Exploration

The formal discovery and naming of Mount Lincoln, like many peaks in the Rockies, occurred during the period of American westward expansion in the 19th century. This era was marked by a significant influx of explorers, trappers, and settlers driven by the promise of new lands and resources.

Zebulon Pike and the Early 19th Century Expeditions

One of the earliest notable expeditions into the Colorado Rockies was led by Zebulon Pike in 1806. While Pike’s mission did not directly involve Mount Lincoln, his journey through the region laid the groundwork for future explorations. Pike’s Peak, another prominent fourteener, is named in his honor, and his expedition highlighted the challenges and opportunities of exploring the Rocky Mountains.

The Role of Surveyors and Geologists

As the 19th century progressed, the role of geologists and surveyors became increasingly important in the exploration of the American West. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) played a pivotal role in mapping the region and documenting its geological features. It was during this period that many of Colorado’s peaks, including Mount Lincoln, were formally identified and named.

Ferdinand V. Hayden and the Hayden Survey

The Hayden Survey, led by geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, was one of the most significant geological surveys of the Rocky Mountains in the late 19th century. Conducted between 1867 and 1878, the survey aimed to map and study the geology, flora, and fauna of the Western United States.

Discovery and Naming of Mount Lincoln

While the exact individual credited with the “discovery” of Mount Lincoln is not definitively documented, it is widely accepted that the peak was named during the Hayden Survey. The mountain was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, reflecting the era’s trend of commemorating significant historical figures and events through geographic nomenclature. Just as we know Who Discovered Mount Harvard?

Impact of the Hayden Survey

The Hayden Survey was instrumental in increasing the scientific understanding of the Rocky Mountains. The detailed maps and geological reports produced by Hayden and his team provided valuable information that spurred further exploration and settlement. This survey also played a crucial role in identifying mineral-rich areas, leading to the Colorado Silver Boom.

The Colorado Silver Boom and Mining Era

The discovery of silver in the Colorado Rockies during the late 19th century brought a wave of prospectors and settlers to the region. The towns of Leadville and Alma, located near Mount Lincoln, became bustling centers of mining activity. This period saw the establishment of numerous mining camps and the rapid development of infrastructure to support the booming industry.

The Role of Miners and Prospectors

Miners and prospectors were often the first non-indigenous people to explore and document many of the high peaks in Colorado. Their search for valuable minerals led them to traverse remote and rugged terrain, inadvertently contributing to the mapping and discovery of the region’s geographic features.

Mount Lincoln in the Mining Era

Mount Lincoln and the surrounding Mosquito Range were rich in silver and other minerals, making the area a focal point of mining activity. The influx of miners and the establishment of mining towns brought increased attention to the region, further solidifying the prominence of Mount Lincoln in the historical and cultural landscape of Colorado.

Modern Recognition and Preservation

Today, Mount Lincoln is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Its status as a fourteener makes it a coveted peak for those seeking to summit Colorado’s highest mountains. The mountain is part of the Pike National Forest, which ensures its protection and preservation for future generations.

Hiking and Climbing Mount Lincoln

Mount Lincoln is commonly accessed via the “Decalibron” loop, which includes Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. This loop is a favorite among hikers for its accessibility and the opportunity to summit multiple fourteeners in a single outing.

  • Kite Lake Trailhead: The most popular starting point for the Decalibron loop is the Kite Lake Trailhead, located near the town of Alma. The trailhead sits at approximately 12,000 feet, providing a relatively short but steep ascent to the summits.
  • Hiking Routes: The standard route to Mount Lincoln involves ascending to the saddle between Mount Democrat and Mount Cameron, then continuing to the summit of Mount Cameron before traversing to Mount Lincoln. The round-trip hike from Kite Lake covers about 7 miles with a total elevation gain of approximately 3,600 feet.

Conservation Efforts

The natural beauty and ecological significance of Mount Lincoln and the Mosquito Range have led to ongoing conservation efforts. Organizations such as the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative work to maintain and protect the trails and natural habitats, ensuring that these majestic peaks remain pristine and accessible.

  • Leave No Trace Principles: Hikers and climbers are encouraged to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the environment. This includes packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting wildlife habitats.
  • Trail Maintenance: Regular trail maintenance and restoration projects help to preserve the delicate alpine ecosystems and prevent erosion and degradation caused by increased foot traffic.


Mount Lincoln’s discovery is a story intertwined with the broader history of exploration, scientific inquiry, and the quest for natural resources in the American West. While the peak was likely known to indigenous peoples for centuries, its formal identification and naming during the Hayden Survey mark a significant chapter in Colorado’s geological and cultural history.

From its towering summit, Mt Lincoln offers breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment for those who venture to its peak. As we continue to explore and enjoy this remarkable mountain, it is essential to honor its historical significance and commit to preserving its natural beauty for future generations.

Mount Lincoln, with its rich history and majestic presence, stands as a testament to the enduring allure of the Rocky Mountains. Whether you are a hiker, a history enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the grandeur of nature, Mt Lincoln provides an unforgettable experience and a deep connection to the legacy of Colorado’s high country.

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