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Capitol Creek



12.5 mile 20.2 kilometer loop
86% Runnable


Ascent: 2,295' 699 m
Descent: -2,293' -699 m
High: 11,592' 3,533 m
Low: 9,481' 2,890 m


Avg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 34% (19°)


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Trail shared by Kevin Hadfield

A pleasant singletrack through the alpine with incredible views of Capitol Peak.

Kevin Hadfield

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The Capitol Ditch Trail is within the Maroon Bell-Snowmass Wilderness, Wilderness restrictions apply. Dogs must be leashed. Camping is prohibited within 200 feet of Capitol lake.


This is a classic out-and-back highlighted by views of the majestic 14,115' Capitol Peak. It utilizes both the Capitol Ditch Trail (#1963) and the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961).

Runner Notes

Ranchers bring their cattle into the national forest for open range grazing. Beware you may encounter natural wildlife and/or cattle. Be mindful that manure may be present on the trail. There are multiple options for crossing Capitol Creek ~3 miles in. Well maintained singletrack for the most part. Be bear aware.


From the Capitol Creek parking lot there are 2 trailheads with trails that eventually merge into one trail ~3 miles into the National Forest. Even from the trailhead parking, the view of Capitol Peak is stunning. The mountain sits atop the Capitol Creek drainage. With it's craggy sides and long access trail, Capitol Peak has a reputation as being one of the hardest summits to achieve amongst Colorado's 14,000+' peaks.

Follow the Capitol Ditch Trail (#1963) which is one of the access points to climb Capitol peak and therefore sees considerable traffic, particularly on nice weekends in the Summer. This trail is also quite popular with horseback riders.

The trail initially contours along a high point looking down ~600' onto Capitol Creek on the left. After about 1 mile you cross the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness boundary. There are a couple of open meadows punctuated by increasingly dramatic views of Capitol Peak and back toward the Roaring Fork Valley before you reach your crossing point of Capitol Creek.

Choose your own adventure for this crossing (expect higher water with spring runoff) and join the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961) on the other side. The trail continues through the forest and through a gate (close the gate after yourself) for about 2 more miles before a small creek crossing over a log bridge. The last mile or so is a steady ascent up to the meadows beneath Capitol and Mt. Daly and finally to Capitol Lake. There are tent camping sites designated in the fir trees up on the hill to your north, right while running in toward the lake.

There are many other runs and a couple of peaks that can be enjoyed from this point. You can also reverse course and enjoy a classic ~13 mile run. Have a ton of fun!

Flora & Fauna

In the summer (usually late July - early September), wildflowers are abundant. You'll likely see cattle and perhaps mountain goats near Capitol lake. Deer, elk and moose also can be found in the area.

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Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 6 votes


  4.3 from 6 votes
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in Colorado


8 Views Last Month
4,657 Since Feb 2, 2015



Looking south up Capitol Creek valley towards Capitol Peak.
Oct 24, 2017 near Snowmas…, CO
Capitol Creek intersecting Capitol Ditch (Upper) Trail as it meets with Capitol Creek Trail. Must walk through this icy creek to pass.
Jul 27, 2019 near Snowmas…, CO
Storm clouds rolling in from the west over Capitol Peak.
Feb 2, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Crossing the meadows of Capitol Ditch Trail
Jul 27, 2019 near Snowmas…, CO


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