One of the most demanding Colorado 14ers boasts incredible views of the Elk Range.”
— Tyler Prince
Located in the Maroon Bells Wilderness with access from Aspen, restrictions in this area vary year-round. Due to overly curious bears, camping at the upper Crater Lake is often off limits, even with a bear can. There is a pay-to-park ranger station on the way up the road, with a self-serve station if you drive up at strange hours.
Dogs cannot hike Pyramid Peak. It is technical enough to be regarded as a climb more than a hike, and a helmet is required for the upper 1000 ft.
Starting at scenic Maroon Lake, this hike ambles through the forest below the majestic Maroon Bells before turning up a steep trail. After some switchbacks, it pops out into a large boulder field below the rocky wall of Pyramid's north face. After a steep headwall hike, it starts to get fun. Hikers can enjoy incredible views of the Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak
, and Snowmass Mountain while scrambling the final 1,000 vertical feet to the summit.
Features: Fall Colors — Lake — River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs
Need to Know
While only 8 miles long, this hike demands a high level of fitness and ability. The trail up to the 13,000 ft ridge is absurdly steep, and the final 1,000 ft is one of the loosest and most technical standard routes up any Colorado 14er. Bring a helmet, and be ready for a long day.
The fastest hikers should expect 6 hrs round trip, with 10 hrs being a reasonable time for the less ambitious.
From Aspen, head west on route 82. Immediately upon leaving town, you'll come to a traffic circle. Follow the sign for the Maroon Bells up Maroon Creek Road. Pass the welcome center and pay up ($10 for a single car day pass; subject to change). Continue up the road and park in one of the lots. While few people actually climb the Bells or Pyramid, this area is chock full of tourists and is well signed. There are day lots, overnight lots, and a lot designated for sleeping in your car. Take your pick.
From the upper lots, walk along the Maroon Snowmass Trail
, leaving Maroon Lake and gaining a small amount of elevation along a mellow but occasionally rocky trail. After about 1.5 miles, turn left toward Pyramid Peak just below the upper lake (Crater Lake). Continue through a flat area before the going gets steep. Hike up steep switchbacks before reaching a boulder field below 12,000 ft, known by hikers as "the amphitheater."
This is where the real hike starts. There are some cairns in the boulder field, and the CFI has done a good job building the trail. Continue up the rocks and to the left to find a gully to the east of Pyramid's impressive north face.
The next thousand feet is brutal. This gully is so steep even the fittest hikers will likely have to stop for a breather every few minutes. You'll gain 1,000 ft in about 0.2 miles, topping out on a ridge.
From here, things are much more fun. Turn right and climb over several gendarmes, or traverse them just to the right. Once the grades gets steep again, your goal is to search for cairns to the left of the ridge. Traverse along loose rocks. In a few minutes, come to a spot referred to as the "leap of faith." It's not a leap - just a big step between rocks. Immediately cross some narrow ledges, clinging to the rocks to your right to avoid the exposure to your left. This area is short and underwhelming. Don't be scared!
From here, turn right up a short red gully and follow cairns to the "green gully." The rock here has an unmistakeable green tint, and can't be missed. Scramble up solid rock in this gully for about 300 ft before finding cairns below the summit. Continue scrambling fun class 3-4 to reach a false summit. There are some fun class 5 moves near here that provide a fun challenge for the more experienced climber. Once on the false summit, it's a 1-2 minute walk up to the true peak. Stop and enjoy the views...it's a long way back down!
Flora & Fauna
After passing through pines and aspens down low, you'll encounter some wildflowers above 13,000 ft, but expect mostly rocks. Lots of rocks.
There are some particularly nimble mountain goats on this mountain. They tend to kick rocks down on unsuspecting climbers, so be careful.