Trail Run Project Logo

Tough, steep, and breathtaking. A multi-day run with very few people.

Your Rating:      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add To-Do · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key







12,030' 3,667 m


8,053' 2,454 m


6,491' 1,978 m


6,420' 1,957 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (56°)

Dogs Leashed

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

If staying overnight at Capitol Lake, advance reservation overnight permits are required and must be purchased in advance at Approved bear food storage containers are also required and strictly enforced.


This is a great multi-day run that leads up to Capitol Lake, Down Avalanche Creek, then up Hell's Roaring Creek and down to the Capitol trailhead. It has all the wonders of the Snowmass Wilderness without the crowds. With two passes at 12,200 feet and turquoise lakes teaming with trout, it's a great alternative to the Four Pass Loop.

Need to Know

This is bear territory -- there is lots of bear scat and tons of bear claw marks on the Aspens. Runing up from Avalanche Creek, near the top of Hell's Roaring Trail, after you cross Hell's Roaring Creek, the trail fizzles out near the top. Route finding required. We went straight up above the tree line and found a clear trail that heads directly to the pass without bushwhacking through the dense forest.


Start at the trailhead for Capitol lake. Take the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961) to Capitol Lake. There you'll find two campgrounds here with plenty of water and marmots! (Advance reservation overnight permits required and must be purchased at Approved bear food storage containers are also required and strictly enforced. Anything left unattended will be licked or chewed to death by those salt addicted fancy ground hogs! You could opt for the the summit of Capitol Peak from here.

Continue over the pass with spectacular views of the Snowmass Wilderness. Travel downhill, passing many spectacular waterfalls and a roaring artisan well where you can fill your bottles without the need to filter! Set up camp Dooley Park where there is fresh spring water and huge flat campsites. Dooley Park sits on an open meadow with lots of deer and elk.

For the last leg, continue downhill, crossing a huge mudslide where you can see all kinds of animal tracks. (Watch out for quick sand). Cross Hell's Roaring Creek. The bridge is completely gone, but we put some logs down and it is crossable. You can wade across if you like. Then start the 4,000-foot elevation gain beside Hell's Roaring Creek to the pass.

At the pass, you can see your vehicle parked at the trailhead several miles away. There is a good view of Wilson Lake where John Denver was inspired to write "Rocky Mountain High." The run down is on a ridge top almost the whole way. There are no water sources on the ridge top.

Pass the outfitters tents and make your way down the 4x4 road back to your vehicle and call it a day!

There are many camp spots at the trailhead and on the 4x4 road.

History & Background

One of the best elk hunting spots in Colorado. Outfitters do guided hunts here.


Shared By:

Nate Varns with improvements by Eli Z

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 5 votes


  4.2 from 5 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Recommended Route Rankings


in Colorado


22 Views Last Month
6,081 Since Jul 22, 2019



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
Capital Lake Pass
Aug 23, 2019 near Snowmas…, CO
Crossing the meadows of Capitol Ditch Trail
Jul 27, 2019 near Snowmas…, CO
Bad omen? I hope not.
Feb 2, 2018 near Snowmas…, CO
We ran Avalanche Creek to Avalanche Lake as an out and back. Here's a shot from the way back.
Apr 2, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO



Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Sep 19, 2020
Johna Iannitto