Colorado boasts 54 peaks over 14,000 feet in height, often called “14ers” by the locals. For visitors and natives alike, summiting these peaks is a popular and challenging pursuit. Aspen, Colorado area is home to nine of these peaks. Seven are in the rugged and steep Elk Range: North Maroon Bells, South Maroon Bells, Pyramid, Conundrum, Capitol, Castle and Snowmass. La Plata Peak and Mt. Elbert, located in the Sawatch Range, are a just over Independence Pass, a short drive from Aspen.
Two of the most iconic peaks in Colorado, and the most photographed in North America, are the North and South Maroon Bells. These are peaks offer beautiful, yet demanding hikes to their summits.
North Maroon Peak
North Maroon Bells Peak measures in at 14,014 feet. This peak is rated as “most difficult” with a steep and exposed route. This peak requires a Class 4 climbing section that often has sow or ice and requires a rope for navigating the technical terrain.
South Marooon Peak
South Maroon Bells Peak is 14,156 feet high and can be accessed by the traverse between the North and South Maroon. This peak is physically demanding and includes Class 3 scrambling (or climbing that doesn’t require a rope).
Pyramid Peak is located two miles east of the Maroon Bells. A 14,018 feet, this mountain is described as “red, rugged and rotten.” A difficult and dangerous hike, Pyramid challenges hikers with steep, loose rock and technical Class 4 terrain.
Known by many as Colorado’s “most difficult” fourteener, Capitol Peak stands tall at 14,137 feet. The least technical route still requires Class 4 climbing on the exposed “Knife Edge” ridge. Climbers recommend a helmet for protection against falling rocks.
Situated at 14,060 feet, Condunrum Peak is a classic summit experience. Not only can you tack on a hot springs backpacking trip at Conundrum, but you can also tick Castle Peak off your list, too. The two peaks share a saddle, making it easy to summit both in one go.
Accessed via Castle Creek Road from Aspen via Conundrum Road, Castle Peak is the 15th highest mountain in the lower and was first climbed by the Hayden Survey in 1873. Castle Peak is also considered to be significantly easier than summiting the Maroon Bells.
Snowmass Peak is the third highest mountain in the Elk Range at 14,092 feet tall. This peak is also one of the most remote of the Aspen 14ers and can’t be viewed from town or roads. Steep on all sides, there is no “easy” way up this Class 3 climb. The views, however, are very rewarding with striking vistas of Snowmass Lake and the surrounding Elk mountains.
La Plata Peak
La Plata , which means “silver” in Spanish, is a peak located over Independence Pass in the Sawatch Mountain Range. It is Colorado’s fifth highest mountain at 14,336 feet and rated a “moderate” hike. This peak has steep surrounding slopes that lead to a gentle and broad summit.
Situated at 14,440 feet, Mt. Elbert is king of the Rockies. Despite its dizzying heights, Mt. Elbert is generally considered to be easier to summit than some of its counterparts. The standard route via the Northeast Ridge begins just outside Leadville near Halfmoon Creek Campground.