Climb South Maroon Peak

Details

Distance

11.5 miles

Elevation Gain

4800 ft

Added by Grace Ditzenberger

Climb this dangerously beautiful and iconic peak in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness by Aspen, Colorado.

Starting at the Maroon Lake Trailhead, walk on the trail past the lake and turn onto the trail heading towards Crater Lake. Hike approximately 1.75 miles to reach another signed trail junction, then turn left and continue on the West Maroon Creek trail to Crater Lake. Eventually you will reach a talus field and wind back into the bushes. Continue on for approximately 0.5 miles until you reach a cairn - from here, you will turn right and hike up the Maroon Peak trail. The cairn can sometimes be hard to see, especially if you begin before dawn, so be paying special attention for the turn-off point. The trail will wind up and begin gaining steady elevation at this point, becoming more clear as you leave the creek trail. 

The next 2,800 feet of elevation gain is arduous - be sure to get an early start to give yourself plenty of time for breaks on this initial ascent to the ridge. Near 11,600 feet, the trail becomes difficult to follow so be on the watch for cairns to guide your path to the ridge.

If you stay on the west side of the ridge, the route traverses through complicated terrain for approximately 0.4 mile, up a large gully, and continues on the west side before gaining the south ridge, near the summit. Follow a cairned trail on the left (west) side of the ridge and after over 0.1 mile, and turn right to find a chimney between some rock towers. Climb up through the chimney, turn left and climb up the large crack. 

From here, the trail becomes progressively more difficult. To avoid backtracking, study the terrain ahead and look for cairns. You will see two clear gullies and either one can be climbed. Climb up halfway either gully to reach the cairned ledge. Continue on the ledge heading west until you can see the next section of the route. Climb steep and loose rock to the right and turn left onto another ledge, until you round another corner to find a large gully that separates the summit and the ridge. 

Enter the gully, turn right and ascend towards the summit. Be careful, this is where there is a lot of potentially dangerous exposure. Scramble up the remaining route and follow the cairns to the summit. 

TIPS: 

  • Start early in the morning. The climb will take long due to tedious route finding, dangerous terrain, loose rock, and the initial 2,800 feet ascent. 
  • Bring as much water as you can, as well as a purifier. It is essential to stay hydrated on this hike to prevent poor route decisions from being made. 
  • Wear layers in the morning. It will begin cold but you will warm up as soon as the sun comes out. 
  • Scan ahead to look for cairns - backtracking is exhausting and time consuming. 
  • You will want poles for the beginning portion of the hike but ditch them once you reach the ridge - you'll need both hands for a portion of the climb. 
  • Stick to the sides of the gullies because they provide more loose rock.
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Known for

Rock Climbing
Hiking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Reviews

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Challenging, and treacherous but scenic climb

South maroon peak is one of the most challenging Class 3 14ers in Colorado . The loose, rotten rock necessitates a helmet and careful foot placement. Route finding once you gain the ridge above 13,500 feet can be hard even with GPS coordinates and cairns. Be prepared with route pictures, videos, maps and start very early. This is definitely not a beginner class 3 peak and I would recommend climbers do atleast 1 or 2 easier class 3 peaks before attempting maroon. Even though this is only a 8-9 mile round trip from the trail some newer climbers might be better off camping near crater lake and making this a 2 day adventure. All that said, the stunning views and the physical challenge in conquering south maroon peak is definitely not to be missed

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5.0/5

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