Guidebook

The Elk Mountains: Home to Colorado's Most Rugged 14ers

The Elk Mountains are home to Colorado's most rugged—and most deadly—summits.

Description

The mighty Elk Mountains lie between Aspen and the nearby town of Crested Butte. While these two iconic Colorado mountain towns are located just a few miles apart as the crow flies, this staggering array of jagged, rocky mountain peaks makes overland travel between the two towns difficult, if not impossible.

These rugged mountains are so formidable, so unforgiving that there's no way for a standard passenger vehicle to cross between the two towns. In the summer, you'll have to drive 110 miles around the mountains to get from one city to another, and in the winter, that distance climbs to 200 miles!

The division is solidified by the formidable 14,000-foot peaks along the spine of the mountain range. This impressive group of seven 14ers is also home to the most technical peak climbs and traverses in the state of Colorado! North Maroon Peak boasts the most technical standard route up any 14er, and it’s followed by Pyramid Peak in the #2 slot. For the full lineup, be sure to read this guidebook detailing the 6 Most Technical 14ers in Colorado.

North Maroon Peak only gets harder if you link it with Maroon Peak via a fifth-class traverse. The renowned Bells Traverse is one of the most technical mountaineering challenges in the state of Colorado, and ranks as one of Colorado's 4 Great 14er Traverses.

Capitol Peak, while not objectively the most technical, has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the deadliest peaks in the state of Colorado. Finally, Castle Peak, Snowmass Mountain, and Conundrum Peak might not be as technical or as deadly as the other summits in the Elk Range, but they are all formidable mountains buried deep in the wilderness. "There's no such thing as an easy 14er," and this wise saying applies doubly so to the Elk Range!

Castle Peak - Northeast Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Castle Peak - Northeast Ridge

Aspen Summer
18.9 km
1,383 m
The highest and most accessible summit in the Elk Range, but still a strenuous and potentially dangerous hike.
Easy
Private
Maroon Peak - South Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Maroon Peak - South Ridge

Aspen Summer
17.6 km
1,574 m
A long day of steep, sustained hiking and scrambling up one of Colorado's most iconic mountains.
Moderate
Private
Capitol Peak - Northeast Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Capitol Peak - Northeast Ridge

Aspen Summer
25.8 km
1,818 m
Capitol Peak is infamously one of Colorado's most difficult yet most rewarding 14ers.
Difficult
Private
Snowmass Mountain - East Slopes
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Snowmass Mountain - East Slopes

Aspen Summer
32.8 km
1,918 m
A two- or three-day mission to summit one of the most remote 14ers in Colorado, requiring snow travel and Class 3 scrambling with exposure.
Moderate
Private
Conundrum Peak - South Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Conundrum Peak - South Ridge

Aspen Summer
19.0 km
1,319 m
Difficult hike to the top of a 14,000-foot subpeak of Castle Peak.
Easy
Private
Pyramid Peak - Northeast Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Pyramid Peak - Northeast Ridge

Aspen Summer
11.8 km
1,343 m
14,000-foot summit requiring huge elevation gain and steep scrambling with wild exposure.
Difficult
Private
North Maroon Peak - Northeast Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

North Maroon Peak - Northeast Ridge

Aspen Summer
13.3 km
1,360 m
A long day of difficult hiking and rock scrambling to the top of Colorado's most photographed 14er.
Difficult
Private
Bells Traverse
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bells Traverse

Aspen Summer
16.1 km
1,570 m
This Class 5 route is one of the most technical traverses in Colorado.
Severe
Private