hikes in Elk Mountains
Arguably one of the most picturesque mountain ranges in all of Colorado, the Elk Mountains are a rugged stretch of peaks and valleys that sit on the western edge of the Continental Divide, close by to the ski resort towns of Aspen and Crested Butte. While there are plenty of popular mountains to be climbed throughout the range, the tallest are its 6 fourteeners: Castle Peak, Maroon Peak, Capitol Peak, Snowmass Mountain, Pyramid Peak, and North Maroon Peak.
Historically, the area was central to the various Colorado silver rushes that occurred during the 1800s; however, after that industry collapsed, the towns and mining settlements fell into a state of decline. It was only during the 20th Century, when ski resorts began to crop up, that the area began to prosper once again. Nowadays, the Elk Mountains are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and are situated within the White River National Forest, Gunnison National Forest, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, and Raggeds Wilderness areas.
10 Amazing Hiking Routes In the Elk Mountains
Featuring dramatic mountain peaks, beautifully scenic valleys, and charming alpine lakes, the Elk Mountains are a true hikers paradise. Throughout this breathtaking area you will find a wide variety of hiking trails that range from beginner strolls along the riverbank to challenging summits of some of the most difficult fourteeners in the State of Colorado. If you are looking to plan a fun outdoor adventure in Colorado, but aren’t sure where to start, then check out this awesome list of hiking routes in the Elk Mountains below:
- Capitol Peak Hike: Featuring challenging mountain terrain and breathtaking alpine views, the Capitol Peak Hike will lead you to the summit of arguably the toughest fourteener in Colorado, and is only recommended for very experienced climbers.
- Oh Be Joyful Trail: This charming long-distance adventure will lead you uphill through a valley that is flanked by rugged mountain peaks, to arrive at the shores of a serene alpine lake with stunning views of the surrounding area.
- Green Lake Trail: Another fun journey to a lovely lake, this hiking route will take you from the town of Crested Butte to the shores of Green Lake that sits nestled beneath the looming slopes of Mount Axtell.
- Lost Lake Trail: This quick and easy adventure is perfectly suited for a fun family excursion, as the trail will lead you around several woodland lakes to arrive at the secluded shores of Lost Lake that lies between two hills.
- Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail: As the name implies, the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in the Elk Mountains that is geared towards casual adventurers, as it leads around the shores of Maroon Lake for stunning alpine views.
- Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Trail: This short trail will take you through the mountains along a rugged ATV road in order to experience the views overlooking a series of stunning waterfalls.
- Anthracite Pass Hike: Located in the Raggeds Wilderness Area, this stunning hike will take you uphill through beautiful aspen groves and serene meadows for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains from Anthracite Pass.
- Crystal City Road #314: A fun route that sets out from the town of Marble, this hike will see you traverse a rugged road through the mountains to reach an historic mill from 1892 that sits precariously above a river.
- Brush Creek Trail: A popular hiking route for casual outdoor enthusiasts and families with children, the Brush Creek Trail will take you through the valley floor alongside the East River for views of the surrounding mountains.
- Smuggler Mountain Overlook Trail: A quick and relatively easy hike in Aspen, the Smuggler Mountain Overlook Trail will lead you up a winding road to an observation deck with stunning views looking out across this iconic ski resort town.
When is the Best Time to Hike in the Elk Mountains?
While there might be a small number of trails that are available for hiking in the winter, the best time to visit the Elk Mountains for a fun hiking trip is during the summer months, after the threat of avalanche conditions has gone away and the ski season is over. During the May-October period, a good portion of the snow along the trails will have dissipated to reveal lovely alpine valleys and peaks for climbing; however, some of the higher elevation trails will only be available for a brief window between July and August.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Elk Mountains
While hiking is the primary activity in the Elk Mountains during the summer months, there are a wide variety of other exciting things to do in the area, such as mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. When the vast blankets of snow and ice cover the region in the winter, the focus of outdoor activities shifts largely to skiing/snowboarding on the rugged mountain slopes and cozying up in the lodge afterwards for a warm drink!
Fantastic Adventure Tours Near the Elk Mountains
Hiking through the breathtaking terrain of the Elk Mountains is an amazing experience, and for some outdoor enthusiasts, planning that adventure is all a part of the journey; however, if you are unfamiliar with the area it can be a tricky thing to navigate. If you are looking to explore the dramatic mountain peaks and stunning alpine valleys of Colorado without the hassle of planning every little aspect of your journey, why not check out one of these amazing adventure tours in Colorado and leave the leg work to the professionals.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Elk Mountains
Is Crested Butte in the Elk Mountains?
The mountain peak of Crested Butte and the town located along its lower slopes can be found in the Elk Mountain Range of Colorado.
What mountain range is Maroon Bells in?
The Maroon Bells (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) are two mountain peaks that can be found within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area of the Elk Mountain Range.
Is Aspen in the Elk Mountains?
The Elk Mountains are arguably the most picturesque in Colorado, and can be found close to the ski resort towns of Aspen and Crested Butte.
Find other spectacular Hiking regions in the Colorado
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- Front Range
- Indian Peaks Wilderness
- Rocky Mountain National Park
The best hikes in Elk Mountains
Yes, there are more than 10
Elk Mountains is so beautiful that we can not give you only 10 hikes. So here is a list of bonus hikes in Elk Mountains that you should take a look at as well
The Crested Butte to Aspen via West Maroon Pass Hike is a challenging, yet beautifully… Read More
The Lupine, Gunsight, Connection, and Lower Loop Trail is a lengthy adventure in the Elk… Read More
The Bull Creek Reservoirs via Lake of the Woods Trail is a laid back family… Read More
The Village Bound, Sleigh Ride, and Nature Loop Trail is a quick and easy hiking… Read More
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