Capitol Peak Hike
The Capitol Peak Hike is a rugged and extremely difficult hiking route in the Elk mountains of Colorado that will take you up to the summit of the toughest fourteener in the state. While out hiking the trail, you will trek across the landscape to Capitol Lake, before climbing up a steep saddle and traversing a dangerous ridge to reach the summit. Hikers should take note that this is an extremely challenging route that should only be undertaken by experienced climbers, as it has seen a number of fatalities due to the rugged and exposed nature of the terrain.
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Route Description for Capitol Peak Hike
The Capitol Peak Hike is a very dangerous route that shouldn’t be underestimated and should certainly not be attempted by inexperienced climbers. If you are planning on climbing this route, be sure to plan your trip thoroughly, pack the appropriate gear, and exercise all precautions along the trail. If it seems like the weather patterns are shifting, always head back down the mountain and return on another day.
Although it may be a challenging hike, the Capitol Peak Hike is a breathtaking adventure that offers some truly stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Casual hikers looking for a longer route can reach the saddle between Capitol Peak and Mount Daly with relative ease, and will be rewarded with great mountain scenery. For those adventurers who push onward, you will be met with rugged and exposed terrain that will leave you feeling accomplished at having conquered the most difficult fourteener in Colorado.
Setting out from the trailhead at the side of Capitol Creek Road, you will pick up the footpath and follow it to the southwest for the next 4.5 km, traversing the rugged woodland landscape until you cross over Capitol Creek and arrive at a junction in the path.
Keeping to the right, you will begin to climb uphill to the south alongside Capitol Creek, passing through a mixture of forest and meadow as you take in the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains over the next 5.5 km. Here, you will pass by a water access and arrive at a campground just below Capitol Lake.
Continuing on to the south for a few hundred feet, you will come to an intersection in the trail. Heading straight will lead you towards the waters of Capitol Lake; however, for the purpose of this route you will turn left and begin climbing up the steep, switchback route that leads up to the saddle between Mount Daly and Capitol Peak.
After reaching the saddle, you will experience some absolutely breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, although the trail here will become harder to discern. If you have a GPS, now is the time when it will certainly come in handy. The final push leading up to the summit of Capitol Peak is only recommended for very experienced climbers, so if you do not fit in this category, take some time to revel in the views before heading back to the lake.
If you are experienced and fit enough to make the summit, the route leading up to Capitol Peak is a further 2.2 km from the saddle. This route up the northeast side of the mountain is the only non-technical route leading up the peak; however, it is still very dangerous and will require experience to safely traverse.
From the saddle, you will be looking at K2, which is often confused by climbers to be the summit of Capitol Peak. Many people will take the route leading around the right side of K2; however, this is far more exposed and dangerous, often leading to fatalities along the trail. Make your way to the southeast from the saddle and work your way over K2, where you will come to the most dangerous part of the route known as the ‘Knife’s Edge’.
Here, you will traverse a rocky ridgeline with steep drop offs on either side, so pause for a moment and check the weather before committing. This is the last place that you would want to be caught in a storm, and many fatalities have happened in this very spot. After giving yourself the green light, begin carefully making your way along the rugged and exposed terrain of the ridge.
After reaching the summit of the mountain, you will enjoy breathtaking views that look out onto Clark Peak to the east, Mount Daly to the north, and Snowmass Mountain to the southeast. Once you have taken in the views, carefully descend the mountain, making sure to follow the exact same route, as there are no shortcuts on this dangerous mountain. After reaching the saddle, simply head back down to either your campsite or the trailhead where you started the Capitol Peak Hike.
At a height of 4,309 m above sea level, Capitol Peak is a prominent mountain in the Elk Mountains of Colorado and is the 52nd tallest peak in North America. Classified as a fourteener 4 m the mountain has the reputation of being the most difficult of the 58 fourteeners in Colorado to climb, thanks to a rugged hike in, loose/crumbling rock, and the exposed ‘knife’s edge’ ridge to the summit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Capitol Peak be climbed in a day?
If you are an experienced climber and leave yourself enough time, Capitol Peak can certainly be climbed in a day, although many people make it into a multi-day excursion.
Is Capitol Peak difficult?
Capitol peak has the reputation of being the most difficult of all 58 of Colorado’s fourteeners to climb, with a number of fatalities having occurred on the trail.
Insider Hints for Capitol Peak Hike
- Make sure to arrive very early to give yourself enough time for this hike.
- Proper clothing and sturdy hiking boots are required.
- Do not attempt the summit if you are inexperienced or are uncomfortable with extremely exposed terrain.
- Many fatalities have occured along the upper portions of this route, so alway check the weather before setting out and turn back if conditions feel unsafe.
Getting to the Capitol Peak Hike Trailhead
The starting point for the Capitol Peak Hike can be found at the Capitol Creek Trailhead on Capitol Creek Road.
Capitol Peak Hike Elevation Graph
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Capitol Peak Hike Reviews
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