Capitol Peak (Colorado)

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Capitol Peak
Capitol Peak CO.jpg
Capitol Peak, from Capitol Lake
Highest point
Elevation14,137 ft (4309 m)[1][2]
Prominence1750 ft (533 m)[2]
Isolation7.44 mi (11.98 km)[2]
Coordinates39°09′01″N 107°04′59″W / 39.1502596°N 107.0829396°W / 39.1502596; -107.0829396Coordinates: 39°09′01″N 107°04′59″W / 39.1502596°N 107.0829396°W / 39.1502596; -107.0829396[3]
Capitol Peak is located in Colorado
Capitol Peak
Capitol Peak
LocationPitkin County, Colorado, U.S.[4]
Parent rangeElk Mountains[2]
Topo mapUSGS 7.5' topographic map
Capitol Peak, Colorado[3]
First ascent1909 by Percy Hagerman and Harold Clark[1]
Easiest routeNortheast Ridge: Climb, class 4[5]

Capitol Peak is a high and prominent mountain summit in the Elk Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. It is the 52nd highest mountain in North America. The 14,137-foot (4,309 m) fourteener is located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest, 8.7 miles (14.0 km) east by south (bearing 104°) of the community of Redstone in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States.[2][4][3]


Capitol Peak lies on the long ridge connecting the heart of the Elk Mountains with Mount Sopris to the northwest. Capitol Peak is notable for its impressive vertical relief, rising 7500 feet above the Roaring Fork Valley in 15 miles. Additionally, it rises nearly 6000 feet above Snowmass Village in just under 9 miles.

Capitol Peak is one of the most difficult of Colorado's fourteeners to climb. The only non-technical route, the Northeast Ridge, requires crossing the famously exposed "Knife Edge," the northeast ridge of Capitol. Fatalities have occurred on this route.[6][7] Other routes require technical rock climbing, for example, the Northwest Buttress Route (Grade IV, Class 5.9). These routes have significant rockfall danger due to a great deal of loose rock; however, the rock is substantially more solid than on the more famous Maroon Bells or on Pyramid Peak.[8]

Capitol Peak Knife Edge

Capitol Peak Trail[edit]

Capitol Peak is a 15.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Snowmass Village, Colorado that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, rock climbing, and backpacking and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.[9]

From the parking lot, hikers will hike 5.7 miles before arriving at the Capitol Peak campsite. Another 1.9 Miles is hiked to K2 and the summit. K2 is a peak that is often confused by hikers as the Capitol Peak summit.


There is primitive camping near trail head in a designated site. No fee is required, but restrictions may exist.

Daly Pass[edit]

At the trail head, at an altitude of 9,400 feet, following several switchbacks for half a mile will lead you to Daly Pass. Daly Pass is the first point of interest on Capitol Peak. This pass is recognized for its saddle-shaped ridge reaching 12,480 feet.[10] After the pass, there is no more easy hiking till the summit.


View of Capitol Peak summit from K2

K2 is known for often being confused by hikers with the Capitol Peak summit. Most hikers will go around the right side where it is most exposed.[11]

Knife Edge[edit]

Knife edge (pictured right) is famous for its 150-foot[10] length, with 2,000 foot drops on both sides. Daredevils will walk across it in a timely manner, but other hikers may scooch across it like straddling a horse. It is regarded as the crux of the route due to the exposure.[12]


The view from Capitol Peak's summit includes Pierre Lakes in the huge cirque to the east. To the south is Snowmass Mountain, another Fourteener, at the end of a long shattered ridge. Farther to the east are red-striated peaks, including the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, and Castle Peak. The long ridge of the Continental Divide is to the east.[10]


Average Monthly Climate Reports[13]
Month Average High Average Low Average Precipitation Average Snow
January 27 F -2 F 3.51 in 50.1 in
February 30 F -1 F 2.46 in 39.6 in
March 36 F 7 F 3.97 in 58.8 in
April 42 F 12 F 3.48 in 45.1 in
May 51 F 22 F 1.96 in 20.6 in
June 63 F 30 F 1.11 in 3.8 in
July 68 F 35 F 2.23 in 0 in
August 66 F 34 F 1.91 in 0 in
September 57 F 29 F 1.70 in 4.9 in
October 47 F 20 F 1.76 in 20.3 in
November 34 F 7 F 2.72 in 43.0 in
December 27 F 0 F 3.02 in 50.8 in
Yearly Average 46 F (Rounded) 16 F (Rounded) 2.49 in (Rounded) 28.1 in (Rounded)

Historical names[edit]

  • Capital Peak
  • Capitol Peak - by Hayden Survey who thought it looked similar to the U.S. Capitol building[1][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Walter R. Borneman; Lyndon J. Lampert (1989). A Climbing Guide To Colorado's Fourteeners (2 ed.). p. 145. ISBN 0871087510.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Capitol Peak, Colorado". Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Capitol Peak". NGS Data Sheet. National Geodetic Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "Capitol Peak". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  5. ^ "Capitol Peak Routes".
  6. ^ Tory, Sarah (14 May 2018). "Death in the alpine". Archived from the original on 7 December 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2020. A little over three weeks after Lord died on Capitol Peak, Jeremy Shull, a 35-year-old from Parker, Colorado, died after falling 200 feet off the east side of the Knife Edge while ascending the same peak. He was an experienced climber, an addiction counselor, married with a 2-month-old son.
  7. ^ Auslander, Jason. "Aspen couple Carlin Brightwell, Ryan Marcil found dead near Capitol summit". Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  8. ^ Dawson, Louis W., II (1994). Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners. Vol. 1. Blue Clover Press. ISBN 0-9628867-1-8.
  9. ^ "Capitol Peak". Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  10. ^ a b c Green, Stewart. "How to Climb Capitol Peak: Colorado's Hardest Fourteener". LiveAbout. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  11. ^ "AAC Publications - Capitol Peak Fatalities – Off-route, Inexperience".
  12. ^ Middlebrook, Bill. "Capitol Peak Northeast Ridge". Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  13. ^ "Capitol Peak : Climbing, Hiking & Mountaineering : SummitPost". Retrieved 2019-10-09.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]