Capital Creek Loop to Haystack Mountain

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Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness

Capital Creek Loop to Haystack Mountain is a 38.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Snowmass, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 38.6 miles Elevation Gain: 12,214 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

From the Capitol Creek trailhead, begin on the Ditch Trail and head south for Capitol Lake. Pop over the pass beyond Capitol Lake on the Capitol Creek Trail and then head south on the Avalanche – Silver Creek Trail past Avalanche Lake. Continue following the trail south over rugged terrain toward Arkansas Mountain and Silver Creek. Connect to the Lead King Basin Jeep Trail and drop down to the Geneva Lake Trailhead (2.2 miles of road distance). Head to picturesque turquoise-hued Geneva Lake. Connect to the Geneva Lake Trail for the next leg of the trip which takes you east over Trail Rider Pass to Snowmass Lake. Turn north onto the Maroon Snowmass Trail as it follows Snowmass Creek northward up valley. Depart the Maroon Snowmass Trail onto West Snowmass Trail and climb over Haystack Mountain to connect to the Capitol Creek Trail and the final leg of the trip.

backpacking
blowdown
over grown
rocky
snow
washed out
9 months ago

What an awesome trail. This route was gorgeous throughout its entirety. My two favorite spots have to be the view you get after you peak the first pass after Capitol Lake looking into a beautiful bowl of mountains, and the views of Snowmass Lake at Sunrise. The trail is really punishing, as well, so make sure you're in good shape. I want to emphasize that. I would also say that trekking poles are an absolute must-have, both to save your knees, and to keep you safe on some of the highly exposed switchbacks like the ones approaching Trail Rider's Pass from the West. We were lucky and had very little snow to cross in general so late in the season. There was a thigh high, rushing river crossing when we passed through Snowmass Creek to head west towards Haystack mountain at the end of the trip, so bring good water shoes/chocos. Mosquitoes sucked any time we camped near water, so be ready for that - we actually threw on thick layers to keep them from biting because they were relentless. The trail was tough to impossible to find in a few parts towards the end, so make sure you're handy with a compass/map, or better yet, get a GPS. At the very least, get GaiaGPS on your phone and download the route beforehand. A last note - this page shows the trail at 38 miles, but my group clocked us in closer to 55 miles for the trek, no detours. We did it in 5 days.

hiking
9 months ago

Hiked Aug 4-9 2019. Great set of trails and a great challenge. I’d recommend bringing a GPS/Cell Phone with maps downloaded. If you follow my recording of this trail it will keep you on track right up until about the last mile. Also where you see I stopped for the day are solid camp sites that can support at least 2 people. This trail is currently doable without ice axe or micro spikes. I’d recommend trekking polls for a couple of slightly sketchy snow crossings coming down off trail rider.

backpacking
blowdown
muddy
over grown
snow
washed out
10 months ago

This was a truly spectacular backpacking trip. Topped out 9 passes on this extended loop around the Maroon Bells. Cannot stress how incredible the scenery was. Would 100% recommend doing the extended loop we did to really experience as much of the area as possible.

hiking
10 months ago

Attempted this look CCW. Most of the scenery was beautiful. Had trouble following the trail in many spots due to the snow and the lack of traffic. There was some sketchy snow traverses (over capitol pass and also on the way to maroon lake after trail rider) lingering due to the HEAVY snow CO received in 2019. We made it across without crampons and snow axes but a fall would of been deadly without an axe to arrest the fall. We ended the trip short at the bottom of Haystack. Maroon creek was running too hard for the both of us to pass through. We met 4 people that was able to successfully ford the creek but it felt too sketchy so we ended the trip after 2 hours of searching for a easier cross (we waited until 530am also). The water was about knee to mid thigh and running too strong. This would of been our first time fording a creek running this fast so take that into account. Bailed out and headed out to east maroon trailhead. Hitched a ride into town and taxi back to capitol creek trailhead to retrieve the car. If you have never forded a fast running body of water before then I recommend doing the itinerary that we did. It gave us the option to bail if needed. If we did the trail starting at east maroon trail head and did it CCW then we would have climbed and descended Haystack (3k ft) and been met with a possibly even more sketchy crossing. Overall a very successful trip and hopefully we will be able to complete the loop 1 day!

hiking
Sun Sep 02 2018

Second year in a row, what an amazing hike!! Navigation is a challenge, we missed a turn at the end of geneva and had to double back for several miles...

hiking
Tue Aug 28 2018

Did this loop back in June and it took us 5 days as we started really late on the first day. One of the toughest trails I experienced due to the elevation gains, however, the views are incredible. Like other reviews, bring a map and compass as it was needed in some sections. There were also 3 river crossings so bring sandals to help alleviate some pain walking on the rocks! We parked our car at the parking lot that is a mile out from the trailhead. We didn't park at the trailhead as the road to it is not maintained. Our car was low clearance and we didn't think our car would be able to make it over some of the humps. However, we did see a few sedans at the trailhead so it's not impossible.

backpacking
Wed Aug 22 2018

The girlfriend and I did The 4 Pass Loop last year and I think this one is even better. 4-5 mountain passes, 4 lakes, almost 40 miles, and 5 days. Trail was pretty difficult to follow in a few sections. Make sure you are paying attention and know how to use a map and compass.

Mon Jul 30 2018

This trail was 100% unreal. Last year my buddy and I did the 4 pass loop and thought it was the best hike ever. Truth be told, this loop is longer, has better views and WAY LESS PEOPLE! Bring a map and a compass, cause you will need it on some sections/junctions. I have not one bad thing to say about this trail. It is very challenging, yet so rewarding!!! Enjoy this private loop until the word gets out. It’s phenomenal

hiking
7 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

backpacking
Sun Sep 02 2018

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Wed Aug 15 2018

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Wed Aug 15 2018

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Sat Sep 09 2017