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 difficult. 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.

Length38.6 miElevation gain12,214 ftRoute typeLoop
Dogs on leashBackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsBird watchingForestLakeViewswild-flowersWildlifeRocky
Description
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This is an incredible backpacking loop that can be done in 4 days/3 nights depending on your fitness level. It is a challenging hike that travels through rocky sections, steep inclines, stunning alpine wildflower meadows and brooks along the Silver Creek trail, switchbacks and beautiful lakes. Many water opportunities along the creeks and lakes. 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.

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Reviews (32)
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Recordings (24)
Completed (50)
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Daniel Lovell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 6, 2020

What an incredible trek! I backpacked this counterclockwise over 4 days/3 nights from August 16th-19th. This time of year, there was no snow, and if it weren't for a chance heat wave and bad forest fires up north, the temperatures and air quality would have been perfect. Highs were in the upper 70s, and it only got into the 50's at night. The first day's hike up to the pass by Capitol lake was the toughest for me, not being used to inclines. I camped just past Avalanche lake. Capitol Creek offers a million water opportunities, so I regretted packing 3L at the start of the hike. I started the hike on 1963, and getting back on to 1961 was tricky...a false trail led me into a cow pasture, and I never found where the real trail was (had both a map and GPS). I knew I was on the wrong side of the creek, so I crossed into some wooded campsites, and found the trail from there. Day 2 was my favorite section. The alpine wildflower meadows and brooks along the Silver Creek trail were stunning, and well placed switchbacks made the pass by Mt. Arkansas easy. The section wasn't as rocky, but harder to follow (as many other people commented). There are large rock cairns for winter hiking, but I was fine using my GPS, and rarely used them or the maps. The Lost Trail 4WD road was hot and uninspiring comparatively. I made it all the way to Geneva Lake for the 2nd night of camping. I recommend sites 1-4 as the are closest to the lake and more scenic. I stayed at 7 to get a head start on the next section. Geneva lake is gorgeous at Sunset, and I would highly recommend camping there. Excellent, cold water between sites 6 and 7. Day 3 is where you re-join the popular 4 pass loop. I hadn't passed hardly anybody since the Cap Peak 14'er climbers on Day 1. Between Geneva and Snowmass Lakes was a blast. The 3rd 2000' ascent felt like a breeze, and you could catch glimpses of the Maroon Bells.

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AllTrails User
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 25, 2020
Backpacking

Beautiful! The way back is much easier than trailhead to the lake!

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Troy Bauer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 18, 2020
Hiking

Completed this loop with a climb of Snowmass Mt. Sept. 14-17. Camped at Avalanche Lake, by Arkansas Mt. just north of the Lost Trail Rd., Snowmass Lake, and about 5 miles north of Snowmass lake just off the trail. Our total mileage was just over 53 miles with about 6 of that climbing Snowmass Mt. Total elevation gain was between 15,500 and 16,000 with about 3200 of that climbing Snowmass Mt. We climbed over 5 mountain passes all over 11,800 feet. Day 1. Trail to Avalanche Lake was easy to follow, the views were excellent all day as you could see Capitol Peak frequently. Was able to cross the creek and keep feet dry. There are 8 designated camping sites just below Capitol Lake. First pass of the trip was an easy grade up, but steep going down into Avalanche lake. There is 3-4 established sites at Avalanche lake for camping, one with a broken bear box, but someone has left tie down straps to secure the lid. This was our best campsite of the trip. The lake, mountains, and reflections on the lake we amazing. Day 2. We saw 7 people on day 2 and they were all hunters. A beautiful day in the backcountry with great views and solitude. There is a great camping spot 1/4 mile north of Lost Trail Rd. due east of Arkansas Mt. There appeared to be a couple of sites in the trees north of Arkansas Mt., but the hike to get water would of been down a steep screen field. If you choose this which appears very nice, load up on water as you come down off the pass and cross the stream. Day. 3 From the valley of day 2 there is a faint trail that is off your east side that stays above tree-line or abouts and takes a high route to Lake Geneva. We did not take this as we had not told our contacts we would be, but coming up on lake Geneva, we saw a high route trail merge back into the main trail. IF this is good all the way it would save a mile maybe and over 1000 feet of elevation gain, and a jeep trail hike. Trail Rider pass is the highest point on the trail and about a mile and half below the pass is where the 4 Pass Loop trail joins up and the trail gets busy with people. Snowmass lake in the late morning early afternoon is a outstanding, but once campers start arriving it becomes packed and like sleeping an outdoor Marriott. Day 4. Climbed Snowmass which was challenging and fun. Go to 14ers.com if you would like a route description, from Snowmass lake it was about 6 miles and 3200 feet of elevation gain with 2 miles of trail, and 4 miles of off trail hiking/scrambling. We then hiked down the Maroon-Snowmass Trail about 5 miles and camped in a established campsite. There are numerous sites along the trail, at least one every mile to mile and half and usually more often. Again like the past 3 days the trail was easy to follow and the views very good. Day 5. Hiked to the West Snowmass Creek trail and crossed the creek. There was no option but to get our feet wet. The trail up the mountain is somewhat confusing because the GPS and the trail on the Caltopo map do not always line up. BUT if you stay on the most traveled trail and the 2 times the trail split there was a log across the WRONG way to go it was not bad at all. The junction with Nicholson Creek trail is about a mile further up the trail than the map shows. They have completed some trail work recently and that might be why they actual trail and GPS do not line up. Again is wasn't hard one just had to take the clues given. We came across 2 group of cow well above 11,000 feet, and tons of cow pies. Coming down Haystack pass was easy to follow, but the trail goes way to the south then back north of the creek crossing. Seems out of the way (and maybe it is) but it takes you right where you need to be. Overall a great loop. We saw more people on the short section that shares the trail with the famous 4 Pass Loop than on the rest of the trail total. It is tough especially if not ready for the altitude. But the views are outstanding and defiantly worth the time. If I did it again I would NOT camp at Snowmass Lake. Very crowded, but I would do a lunch stop there when it is quiet, because the lake and views are excellent.

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Jason Lemmon
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 27, 2020
HikingGreat!

Personally I would not classify this as moderate. With over 12,000 in elevation gain and having a pack on your back, this is a doozy. I did this by myself and was able to finish in 4 days. I used a gps device but didn’t feel like the trail was hard to navigate until the the last quarter when you hit west snowmass trail. I got off trail a couple times and didn’t realize til I looked at the gps. If you are up for the challenge, the views are absolutely gorgeous with Capital Lake and Snowmass lake being the highlights.

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louie linux
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 21, 2020
HikingOff trailOver grownPrivate propertySnow
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Zach Stokes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 25, 2019
BackpackingBlowdownOver grownRockySnowWashed out

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.

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Drew H
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 9, 2019
Hiking

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.

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Gwion Ap Dafydd
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 26, 2019
BackpackingBlowdownMuddyOver grownSnowWashed out

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.

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Pui Tran
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 25, 2019
Hiking

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!

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WILLIAM WHELPLEY
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 2, 2018
Hiking

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...

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Susan L
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 28, 2018
Hiking

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.

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Reece Doan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 22, 2018
Backpacking

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.

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Dan Jackson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 30, 2018
First to Review

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

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AllTrails User
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 24, 2020
Backpacking
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Pete Morasco
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 24, 2020
Hiking
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Zoe Gaffney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 27, 2020
Hiking
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Weston Muench
Gray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 26, 2020
Hiking
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Jordan Reiley
Yellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 15, 2020
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Corey Glass
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 1, 2020
Hiking
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