During the winter months, the road is generally closed far below the trailhead. Summer months, snow is limited to a few passable areas, the most difficult being right before the second campsite close to the lake (a steep uphill climb better accomplished with microspikes). Also there are multiple fast-moving creeks you must cross using rocks, logs, or in at least one case just wading through the icy waters (up to mid-shin in the most shallow area).
Although you may be fighting aggressive cows for space on the trail, this path is well maintained and makes for an excellent run.
From Glenwood Springs, drive 26 miles SE on CO 82 and turn right onto Snowmass Creek Rd. From here it's 10 miles to the trailhead. Drive 1.7 miles and turn right onto Capitol Creek
Rd. In 4.7 more miles, the road turns to dirt. 2WD and lesser 4WD cars should park here. Subarus and better can make it the remaining 3.5 miles or so to the trailhead on a poor quality dirt road.
From the trailhead, you have two options: this trail, which is shorter but loses elevation, or the Capitol Ditch Trail (#1963)
which does not. This trail descends right from the trailhead. Runners lose about 600 ft in elevation in the first 0.5 miles. They will then cross Capitol Creek
and bear to the right, continuing along the creek for several miles. This trail passes through cattle grazing areas, so don't be surprised if you encounter some territorial bovines.
A sign marks the West Snowmass Trail on the left at about 4 miles. At the 6 mile point the trail switchbacks to a double log crossing. The trail crosses the stream a few times from here. Campsites may be found just past these crossings. Camping is not allowed in the meadows or within 200 feet of Capitol Lake. Continue on the trail to Capitol Lake. To reach the pass and Avalanche Creek Trail
, follow the trail along the west side of the lake. Capitol Peak
is up and to the left of its massive namesake, just before the lake.
The lower and middle portions of this trail cross cattle grounds, so expect to see cows. A lot of cows.
Near the lake: groundhogs everywhere! Keep all your bags/food inside your tent if camping.