Hiking Castle Peak | The Best Elk Mountain Beginner 14er
The Elk Mountains are the most dangerous Colorado mountain range. Their loose, rotten rock makes rockslides and accidents more common than any other peaks in the state. The six fourteeners here aren’t to be taken lightly. Hiking Castle Peak is one of the easiest 14ers in the Elk Mountains, great for those looking to get their feet wet in this area without the risk of the Maroon Bells or Capitol Peak. It’s still a long, touch climb that deserves to be taken seriously. Before you go hiking Castle Peak, take some time to plan ahead with my route guide below.
Hiking Castle Peak: Fast Facts
Hiking Castle Peak - Northeast Ridge Route
Your adventure hiking Castle Peak will start at the Castle Creek trailhead. If you have 4WD, you can drive up the road where there are some spots for camping along the first mile. Near 10,200 feet, 1.5 miles up the road, reach a creek crossing. Low-clearance cars, whether they have 4WD or not, shouldn’t attempt this creek crossing. This is especially true. in early summer when the water is higher. If you do want to cross, take a look from the footbridge to see what you’re up against.
After crossing the creek, keep hiking or driving along the Castle Peak route almost 2 miles to the Pearl Pass road junction around 11,150 feet. Turn right at this road junction and follow the old mining road up into Montezuma Basin. You will pass the Montezuma Mine along your right. Continue a half mile to the end of the road which tops out around 12,800 and park here if you have a 4wD vehicle.
At this point, you have a great view of the headwall ahead you which you’ll climb to reach the Northeast Ridge. Start hiking Castle Peak, pass the creek and meltwater to your left and continue to the steep slope in front of you. Ascend 600 feet up the headwall. Snow may be on this slope late into the summer, in which case you should be prepared with traction and an ice axe. Around 13,300′, enter a large basin. Castle and Conundrum peak rise above you.
Follow a trail to ascend up to the ridge sharply to your left. Hike over 300 feet to reach the crest of the ridge, around 13,700. From here, the route is tougher along the ridge, maxing out at a difficult class 2, unless you go off route. Bypass some initial touch sections on the right before continuing directly on the ridge crest. Around 13,900 feet, with 100 feet or so to go, go around another difficult section on the right and return to the top of the ridge crest. Be careful not to drop too far to your right or you’ll hit steep cliffs. Near 14,000 feet, you can preview the final 250 feet to the summit.
Drop to a small saddle and start up the final pitch, the crux of the Castle Peak route. You may run into some tougher rock sections or obstacles but it should be somewhat easy and obvious to get around them each. Finish climbing up the steep, loose slope to finish hiking Castle Peak and summit this mighty mountain.
At the summit, enjoy your accomplishment! After you enjoy the view, make sure you head back down with plenty of time to reach treeline before afternoon thunderstorms become a problem. I hope you enjoyed this Castle Peak Route Guide. Good luck hiking Castle Peak, and safe travels on the trail!