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Regarded as Colorado's hardest 14er, Capitol Peak boasts stunning alpine views and climbing.

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Out and Back

14,120' 4,304 m


9,069' 2,764 m


5,337' 1,627 m


5,339' 1,627 m



Avg Grade (7°)


Max Grade (24°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Numerous climbers have died attempting this route. Do not take it lightly. The Capitol Creek Trailhead is generally closed for the winter quite a ways down the road. Leave the dog at home.

If staying overnight at Capitol Lake, advance reservation overnight permits are required and must be purchased in advance at recreation.gov. Approved bear food storage containers are also required and strictly enforced.


With incredible views of your intended conquest for the entire approach, this is a truly unique hike. As soon as you get out of the car at the trailhead you'll be able to see Capitol Peak, rising above the valley with Swiss alpine aesthetic. Hike through cattle grazing grounds to Capitol Lake before spending hours talus-hopping, traversing, and scrambling along Capitol's famous "Knife Edge" and ridge. This mountain isn't regarded as Colorado's hardest 14er for nothing!

Need to Know

This is a challenging "hike," and truly pushes the limits of the term. There's plenty of scrambling, exposure, and loose rocks, and climbers should know that hikers are killed in the Elk Range every year. Bring a helmet and be careful. The fast and fit can do this as a day trip, but be forewarned: from lake-summit and back will take at least 5-6 hours, not to mention the approach and hike back to the car.


From the Capitol Creek Trailhead, follow either Capitol Ditch Trail (#1963) or Capitol Creek Trail (#1961) to campsites just before Capitol Lake. Most will elect to camp here the night before their summit bid. If doing this hike as a day trip ignore this area and get moving - you don't have time to sightsee! If staying overnight, advance reservation overnight permits are required and must be purchased in advance at recreation.gov.

Continue up Capitol Peak Trail to the K2-Daly saddle, and say goodbye to clear trail. Talus hop to K2, scramble to the Knife Edge, traverse, and then work your way along Capitol Peak's ridge to the summit. Much greater description can be found in the Capitol Peak Trail link.

Due to summer storms, it would be wise to be on top by 9 am, which means a 4-5 AM start from the lake or a 2-3 am start from the trailhead. If the weather looks bad before you cross the knife edge, just turn around. The mountain isn't going anywhere, and the rock here gets to be very slick!

Flora & Fauna

The lower and middle portions of the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961) cross open range, so expect to see cows... lots of cows. At higher altitudes...marmots.

History & Background

A challenging enough climb in summer, Capitol Peak is regarded as a true mountaineering conquest in the winter. Dozens have made a winter ascent, but technical gear, chops, and cojones are all a necessity for those seeking the Elk Range monarch during the colder months.


Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 12 votes


  5.0 from 12 votes
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in Colorado


11 Views Last Month
14,333 Since May 11, 2015
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Capitol Peak from just above Capitol Lake
Oct 1, 2017 near Snowmas…, CO
Crossing the Knife Edge on Capitol Peak.
Oct 1, 2017 near Snowmas…, CO
Crossing the knife edge at sunrise, with Capitol Peak looming ahead.
May 11, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Steep scrambling just below the summit
May 11, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Taken from across the knife edge, this picture shows a hiker on top of K2, with a stunning sunrise behind him.
May 11, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Couldn't have asked for a better bachelor party.
Feb 13, 2020 near Snowmas…, CO


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