Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness | Saturday & Sunday, July 22-23, 2023
Almost nine years ago now, Diane was with me while I was photographing Fall Colors in the Elk Mountains near the Capitol Creek Trailhead, and while we were there she mentioned to me that she would like to backpack to Capitol Lake sometime, and I never forgot about it. However, we had never got around to doing that hike yet because it’s such a popular location and I’ve always been worried about hiking in and not finding a campsite near the lake on a weekend. But earlier this year when the White River National Forest finally implemented a permit system for the designated campsites around Capitol Lake, I hopped onto Recreation.gov the day they became available and booked a site for us on this weekend in late July. On Saturday morning we woke up extra early and made our way over to the Capitol Creek Trailhead to start our hike up to Capitol Lake.
Here is a view of Capitol Peak from the Capitol Creek Trailhead just before we started hiking.
Although you cannot see them in this photo along the Upper Capitol Creek Trail, not only were the mosquitoes were pretty bad this morning, but the flies were atrocious!
It wasn’t long until we entered the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness.
Capitol Peak is a constant companion as you hike along the Capitol Ditch Trail.
Diane hiking up the Capitol Creek Trail as we slowly made our way up the valley.
Shortly after this point we had to put on our microspikes and climb up a section of the trail that was still covered with snow to reach the upper basin.
Capitol Peak is such an impressive mountain, but I’m pretty sure this is probably the closest I will ever get to climbing it…
Upper Capitol Creek Basin
We had a pretty great view from our designated campsite.
Capitol Peak from Camp
After setting up camp I had hoped to hike around Capitol Lake to the pass above, but there was a steep section of the trail covered with snow that I wasn’t comfortable crossing, so I never made it past the lake.
Looking down the valley from the upper basin we could see the familiar peaks of The Flat Tops on the horizon.
After dinner I spent the rest of the evening watching the light change from the shore of Capitol Lake.
Capitol Peak reflecting on Capitol Lake.
Capitol Lake Sunset
Last Light on Capitol Peak
One final shot of Capitol Peak at dusk from our campsite.
Here’s a parting shot of Capitol Peak as we made our way back to the Jeep on Sunday morning.