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A strenuous route that treats the committed runner to exceptional views of the beautiful Elk Range.

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11,759' 3,584 m


8,609' 2,624 m


3,163' 964 m


1,645' 501 m



Avg Grade (7°)


Max Grade (22°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Food, refuse, and any scented items must be stored in an IGBC approved bear resistant container. Human food habituated bears are a threat to human safety. Visitors without approved bear resistant containers will be ticketed and required to leave. See the forest service website for more information.

Need to Know

Other things to note, as this area has lots of wildlife, it also has lots of game trails that can easily be mistaken for the actual trail. Ensure that you bring a map/compass or a GPS, and know how to use them, when heading out to this area to ensure you remain on course. The trail is typically free of most deadfall (thanks to the forest service) so if you find yourself climbing over fallen trees you should probably consult your navigation to ensure you are still on course.

Also see the trail website
for updated information and restrictions prior to heading into the wilderness area.


This spectacular run links the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961) and the Maroon Snowmass Trail taking you over Haystack Pass along the way. It begins at a junction with the Maroon Snowmass Trail about 1.5 miles from the parking area. There is a sign post, but it isn't easily noticed when making the connection with this trail.

Shortly after starting the trail, you'll cross Snowmass Creek, which depending on time of year will likely be quite the experience if you have never forded a river. Immediately after crossing the river, you'll pass through a large aspen spotted meadow, which is private property so stick to the trail. Shortly after leaving the meadow, you'll go through a gate that takes you back onto public land (be sure and close the gate).

You then immediately begin your climb into the basin as you travel through dense aspen forests. Along this section there are a few nice camping spots, but you'll definitely need to keep your eyes open as this trail is less traveled than its neighbors and doesn't have many pre-existing campsites.

The trail continues up the fall lines of the surrounding mountains eventually taking you to the foot of the Haystack Pass. Here is where it is easy to lose the trail, so keep your eye on the pass as you enter an alpine meadow that merges into a large scree/boulder. On the top side of the scree field, you'll pick up the trail again near the saddle of the pass.

As you crest the pass, you are treated to wonderful views of the surrounding Elk Range. The trail continues down a fairly steep incline for about 1.5 miles with plenty of rocks (so mind your footing) and through some nice meadows spotted with groves of evergreens, until you reach the junction with the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961).

Flora & Fauna

You'll likely encounter wildlife along this run. As noted, hard-sided bear canisters are required by the Forest Service when traveling in this area. After a short time on the trail, you'll see why. We only spotted a small cub from a distance, but we talked with some folks on trail that had to run off a bear as they where setting up camp. There was a seemingly endless supply of bear scat along the entirety of this run, so please adhere to the canister requirements and keep food away from wildlife. Elk, deer, small mammals, and plenty of other critters call this area home as well, so cameras and binoculars are a must for this run.


Shared By:

John Shuttlesworth with improvements by Michael Reeve

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 2 votes


  4.5 from 2 votes
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in Colorado


2 Views Last Month
887 Since Jul 1, 2018



Excellent views of the Elk Range await atop this alpine pass.
Jul 1, 2018 near Snowmas…, CO
Additional views of the Elk Range to the southwest.
Jul 1, 2018 near Snowmas…, CO
Great views of Mt. Daly along the trail.
Jul 2, 2018 near Snowmas…, CO
Enjoy the aspen groves that dominate the majority of this hike.
Jul 2, 2018 near Snowmas…, CO



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Jul 3, 2018
chris tullar
Trail running project has it 5.4mi, but my GPS had me at 7.4 miles between Snowmss creek trail and Capitol creek trail. Awesome backcountry trail! 7.4mi