Colorado 14ers: Snowmass Mountain

Bag a rugged fourteener on this 20.8-mile lasso loop linking shady evergreens and long sunny scrambles to a beautiful peak high above the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.
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Bag a rugged fourteener on this 20.8-mile lasso loop linking shady evergreens and long sunny scrambles to a beautiful peak high above the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

A lovely 8-mile approach hike, a campsite by a lake teeming with lunker trout, and a moderate ascent of a fetching Fourteener: What more could you want from a long weekend in the mountains? Less crowded camping would be one thing, and you can have that, too, if you like lots of snow. In June, the masses have yet to occupy the campsites at Snowmass Lake, and acres of the white stuff still span the east-facing basin between Snowmass Mountain and 13,841-foot Hagerman Peak. (Recent balmy summers have melted that huge snowfield by mid-July, leaving behind a mundane talus slog.)
In the morning, you’ll cast long shadows on pink snow as the rising sun lights your route—it’s like climbing a big glacier in the Alps without the crevasse danger. There’s no need for crampons or other technical climbing gear if you wait until the morning sun softens the snow. At the top, scramble a white granite ridge to the blocky peak. Now comes the best part: Ice axe at the ready, climb down the snow until you're comfortable with the angle, sit on your butt (or stand if you're skilled), and push off for the state's best glissade. In good conditions, you can slide more than 1.5 miles and nearly 3,000 vertical feet. Hikers amped by this speedy schuss sometimes celebrate by diving into Snowmass Lake at the bottom.
-Text by Dougald MacDonald
-Mapped by Kim Phillips, Patsy Fellman, and Travis Beery

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 33.5

Waypoints

SMT001

Location: 39.2000013, -106.9941545

Hike south from the trailhead. Almost immediately, the trail rounds to the west for a mellow traverse.

SMT002

Location: 39.1932983, -107.0105972

Pass through the first of 2 wooden gates; views of meadows and mountains on the R; the roar of the river drowns out footsteps

SMT003

Location: 39.1901283, -107.0146103

Continue straight @ jct. with W. Snowmass Trail. In .3 mi., forest opens up briefly near the second wooden gate

SMT004

Location: 39.1804352, -107.0205307

Meander through thick Aspen groves, passing giant moss-covered boulders; catch an occasional glimpse of jagged peaks through the trees

SMT005

Location: 39.165966, -107.0222473

Pass through a tunnel of Aspen with C-shaped trunks

SMT006

Location: 39.1596985, -107.0170364

Aspen leaves frame Clark Peak's pyramid shape to the W; continue heading S

SMT007

Location: 39.1484489, -107.0140533

Continue moderate ascent on rocky trail; traverse the top of a small boulder field

SMT008

Location: 39.1347733, -107.012619

Cross a large beaver pond on floating logs; watch your footing

SMT009

Location: 39.1296005, -107.0171814

Enter thick spruce and fir forest; vibrant bluebells line the trail

SMT010

Location: 39.1201897, -107.0267105

Head straight @ jct. with Buckskin Pass

SMT011

Location: 39.1172066, -107.0285339

A series of waterfalls on the L mark your arrival at Snowmass Lake. Set up camp in the surrounding forest overlooking the lake's bluish-green waters. To begin summit climb, follow the narrow dirt trail around the S side of the lake through thick bushes

SMT012

Location: 39.1142235, -107.041626

Scramble up a large boulder field; watch for curious marmots peering out through the gaps in the rocks

SMT013

Location: 39.1156158, -107.0442505

Ascend the steep, narrow dirt path that parallels the stream on the R

SMT014

Location: 39.1158829, -107.0470963

Use rocks as stepping stones to cross cascading stream, then bush whack to access grassy area to the N

SMT015

Location: 39.1164169, -107.0491486

Rest your legs in the grassy area overlooking the lake; brilliantly-colored wildflowers speckle the grass in the summer. Snowmass Peak's impressive form dominates the landscape to the SW

SMT016

Location: 39.1170998, -107.0528488

Hike up flat rock slabs; a rushing stream provides cold, refreshing mountain water (a good place to refill water bottles if your reserves are running low). Catch first views of the Maroon Bells to the SE. A huge boulder field awaits you as you continue traveling W towards the saddle

SMT017

Location: 39.1163788, -107.0633316

Summit the rocky ridge @ 13,728 ft. Head to the NW; traverse the W side of the ridge on large, sometimes loose, boulders that form the mountain's steep slopes

SMT018

Location: 39.118866, -107.0664825

Snowmass Mtn. (14,092 ft.): This small, rocky summit offers breathtaking panoramas of rugged terrain and neighboring 14ers--Capitol Peak to the NNW; the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak to the SW

SMT019

Location: 39.1181335, -107.0651474

Lose elevation quickly by sliding down the snowfield on the E face of the mountain--a welcome alternative to descending the boulder field. Return to WPT 16 and retrace steps to Snowmass Lake

Snowmass Peak

Location: 39.1162376, -107.0293198

©Kim Phillips

Aspen Grove

Location: 39.191452, -107.0124588

The trail to Snowmass Lake winds through scenic aspen groves.
©Kim Phillips

Mossy Boulders

Location: 39.1909561, -107.0132828

©Kim Phillips

Snowmass Creek

Location: 39.1899605, -107.0161057

©Kim Phillips

Aspen Grove

Location: 39.1626167, -107.0197449

©Kim Phillips

Beaver Pond

Location: 39.1425629, -107.012619

The Elk Range forms a picturesque backdrop to this mountain scene.
©Kim Phillips

Willoughby Mountain

Location: 39.1301346, -107.0161057

©Kim Phillips

Waterfall before Snowmass Lake

Location: 39.1173744, -107.0286942

©Kim Phillips

Sunset

Location: 39.1181831, -107.030014

©Kim Phillips

Snowmass Lake

Location: 39.115406, -107.0323792

©Kim Phillips

Trail leading to the scree field

Location: 39.1134605, -107.0387268

©Kim Phillips

Grassy Ascent

Location: 39.1160469, -107.0479202

©Kim Phillips

Curious Marmot

Location: 39.1145554, -107.0422897

Look closely for marmots the boulder field.
©Kim Phillips

Jagged Ridgeline

Location: 39.1165428, -107.0634995

This is the view to the south from the top of the ridge.
©Kim Phillips

Summit Views

Location: 39.118866, -107.0666504

Views of the Elk Range from the summit of Snowmass Mountain. ©Kim Phillips

Snowy Descent

Location: 39.1193619, -107.0621719

©Kim Phillips