14ers Near Aspen: 13 Great Mountains to Climb
Aspen is nestled north of the Elk Mountains, some of Colorado’s most beautiful peaks, including six 14ers. However, the 14ers near Aspen are also some of the most dangerous mountains due to the loose, rotten quality of the rock and the difficulty of the routes. For those new to the fourteeners, I highly recommend starting with one of the Sawatch Range summits, which are much better for beginners.
Here is a complete introduction to the 14ers near Aspen, along with route information, leave no trace tips, and other resources. Safe travels on the trail!
Many 14ers Near Aspen Are Dangerous and Deadly
More people have died in the Elk Mountains than in any other Colorado mountain range. I don’t say this to scare you, but to help you realize the level of risk present on these peaks. Class 3 and 4 mountains already include deadly exposure, but the loose rock on these mountains increases the danger, with seemingly firm holds breaking off without warning. Wait to climb the first six 14ers near Aspen until you have solid 14er experience.
The Eight Closest 14ers Near Aspen
These are the 14ers near Aspen ranked by proximity – not by difficulty. Make sure you check out the peak’s difficulty class before you head to the trailhead. New to the class ranking system? Click here to see my quick guide to these rankings from classes 1-5.
1. Maroon Peak - 23 Minutes From Aspen
The first peak on the list is one of Colorado’s most beautiful, and the most photographed as well. The horizontal sedimentary rock that gives the peak its colors and bold lines also have left the rock brittle and prone to breaking away. Together with North Maroon Peak, its neighbor, the massif is known as the Maroon Bells. It’s best climbed by experienced climbers and peak baggers. You will likely need a shuttle trip and reservation to reach the peak, so plan ahead for this one. Click here to read the route guide.
2. North Maroon Peak - 23 Minutes From Aspen
Just a short distance from Maroon Peak is its neighbor North Maroon Peak. It’s slightly more dangerous than the principal summit, with class 4 climbing required to reach the summit. Its reputation is much the same – the two peaks are often called the “Death Bells” by climbers due to their deadly records. These two peaks can be connected via the difficult “Maroon Traverse,” which typically requires class 5 technical climbing to safely complete. Most people should climb them separately. Click here to read the route guide for North Maroon Peak.
3. Pyramid Peak - 23 Minutes From Aspen
The third and final peak reached via the Maroon Bells area is Pyramid Peak. This rugged class 4 mountain is just across the valley from the Maroon Bells and is similarly loose and rotten. Fewer people climb this peak, which means it is even more up to you to navigate and route-find for yourself. Once again, you will likely need to plan for a shuttle reservation to reach this very crowded area. Click here to read the route guide.
4. Snowmass Mountain - 30 Minutes From Aspen
Snowmass is the only one of the 14ers near Aspen that requires technical snow climbing gear to climb along the standard route – an ice ax, crampons, and helmet. While the scrambling does not exceed class 3, there is a long approach hike that forces most people to take two days for their ascent. With many small challenges along the way, it is important to plan ahead and thoroughly research this trail and route. Click here to read the route guide for this peak.
5. Castle Peak - 35 Minutes From Aspen
Castle Peak is the closest of the class 2 14ers near Aspen, but that does not necessarily mean it is easy. This is a long hike with lots of scrambling on loose and rotten rock. While it is not as exposed or deadly as the Maroon Bells, it is still a mountain with plenty of risks. Those with some 14er experience will likely be able to handle the experience, but those new to the peaks should pick something outside of the Elk Mountains entirely. Click here to read the Castle Peak Route Guide.
6. Conundrum Peak - 35 Minutes From Aspen
Conundrum Peak is just a short distance from Castle Peak, sharing much of the same route. This route includes scrambling up loose gullies, so a helmet is advised even though it does not exceed class 2 scrambling. One option is going early in the season when there is still snow to climb it using an ice ax and crampons – but only if you have the right experience, training, and avalanche gear. Click here to read the route guide for Conundrum Peak.
7. Capitol Peak - 45 Minutes From Aspen
The most dangerous fourteener in Colorado is Capitol Peak, known for its unstable rock and notorious knife’s edge ridge. This mountain has it all, a long approach hike, a difficult ridge traverse, and a final slog up the final loose slope up to the summit. The mountain takes 1-2 lives on average each year, so take care if you decide to attempt it. Wait for a good weather forecast, as there are no ways to bail out for much of the high route if storms move in. Click here to read the route guide for Capitol Peak.
8. La Plata Peak - 50 Minutes From Aspen
Of all the 14ers near Aspen, La Plata Peak is the best for beginners – it’s not even close! The standard route is a relatively simple class 2 hike and scramble, with little to no exposure or loose rocks to deal with. At the summit, you will be treated to views of the Elk Mountains to the west, the Sawatch to the north and south, and the Mosquito Range to the east. Those looking for a challenge can look into Ellingwood Ridge, a class 3 route up La Plata known for the serious route-finding issues along the way. Click here to read the standard route guide for La Plata Peak.
Easier 14ers Further From Aspen
If you want more options, and you are willing to drive 1-2 hours, there are many other great 14ers near Aspen. The Sawatch Range, just over Independence Pass, is home to more than a dozen peaks ideal for hiking and scrambling. While the drive is a bit longer, you will avoid many of the crowded trailheads for the 14ers near Aspen and have more options with easier peaks and routes. Here are five of my favorite choices within two hours of Aspen.
1. Mount Elbert - 1 Hour, 50 Minutes From Aspen
As the tallest summit in Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountains, Mount Elbert is a busier 14er than the other peaks on this list. However, it is a wonderful peak with a solid trail constructed thanks to the hard work of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. It is the only class 1 fourteener on this list, a hike from the trailhead all the way to the summit. If you want to camp for a night before or after your ascent, you can stay in one of several campgrounds near the trailhead. Click here to read the route guide.
2. Mount Massive - 1 Hour, 55 Minutes From Aspen
Just across the Halfmoon valley from Mount Elbert is the state’s second tallest summit, Mount Massive. It is an aptly named mountain, with more area above 14,000 feet than any other mountain in the lower 48 states. This is a great opportunity for an overnight backpacking trip, as there are several wonderful campsites by the creeks along the approach trail. There are also camping areas near the trailhead, just up the road from Mount Elbert. Click here to read the route guide for Mount Massive.
3. Missouri Mountain - 1 Hour, 35 Minutes From Aspen
Missouri Mountain is located in Gulch along with Mount Belford and Oxford, but it is my favorite of the three by far. With some fun scrambling along the summit ridge, and a gorgeous ascent up through Missouri Gulch, it’s a long but enjoyable day trip. It can also be done as an overnight trip to take a slower pace, with good camping options throughout the forested area near the tree line. There are several mining camps and museums you can visit in the area too. Click here for the Missouri Mountain route guide.
4. Huron Peak - 1 Hour, 55 Minutes From Aspen
Continue up the road past the Missouri Gulch trailhead to reach the south Winfield Trailhead, just beyond the old mining town. This fourteener is my top recommendation of all of the 14ers near Aspen. While it is not the closest, it is said to have the best views along the route and at the summit of any of the peaks in the state. This is especially true in September when the aspen trees begin to change color. Click here to read the Huron Peak route guide.
5. Mount Yale - 1 Hour, 50 Minutes From Aspen
Mount Yale is one of the most accessible 14ers near Aspen, with a Trailhead on a major county highway open year-round. Climbing it involves a long day trip the takes you up through forests, past the tree line, and along a rocky ridge up to the summit itself. I found it to be a particularly scenic peak in the area with very few other people sharing the trail. Click here to read the Mount Yale route guide.
Tips for Climbing the 14ers Near Aspen
Whether you climb the difficul Elk 14ers near Aspen or the easier Sawatch mountains, these peaks can be dangerous. Follow these general tips to help stay safe in the mountains.
- Check the weather forecast before your climb and plan accordingly.
- Leave your plans and expected return time with someone dependable at home.
- Start early and end early to be back below the treeline by 1 pm to avoid thunderstorms.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and keep them with you at all times (see below for a list!)
- Always wear a climbing helmet on class 3 and 4 peaks and routes.
If you are completely new to hiking and climbing these high peaks, I recommend checking out my Beginners Guide here for free advice.
Leave No Trace on the 14ers Near Aspen
The 14ers near Aspen see tens of thousands of visitors every single year. The alpine tundra is a fragile environment and is easily impacted by hikers, campers, and climbers. Streams, meadows, forests, and wildlife are also all at risk of adverse impacts from outdoor enthusiasts. Follow all of the seven principles of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics to help protect the peaks for future generations. These principles are:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Camp and travel on durable surfaces
- Properly manage waste
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be courteous to others in the outdoors
There are many more detailed LNT tips to help you implement each of these main principles for conserving the backcountry. Learn more in my 14er Beginner Guide Chapter on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics here, or visit the official website for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics here.
Gear Tips for the 14ers Near Aspen
The right clothing and gear will make it much easier to climb the 14ers near Aspen. While not everything here is required, they’ll definitely make your ascent safer and more manageable. Visit my Beginner’s Guide here for more detailed packing and gear info. Here are some of the basics that you should know.
Start with a good pair of hiking boots. I recommend boots rather than shoes as they provide more ankle support, which is helpful for rocky trails. Click here for my specific hiking boot recommendations for 14ers.
You will also need to bring the Ten Essentials. These are the ten critical pieces of gear necessary to stay safe in the mountains should something happen to you. Click here to read my full list of the ten essentials.
Finally, ensure you have a 15-30 liter backpack to carry your essentials and water with you on your trip. The Talon 22 from Osprey is my personal favorite for the 14ers near Aspen and beyond, but there are many great options to choose from. Click here to read my full backpack recommendations for fourteeners.
The 14ers Near Aspen: Now You Know!
As you can see Aspen is an amazing base camp for 14er adventures, with a dozen or more major peaks within a 2-hour drive. If you are a beginner, consider La Plata Peak or another Sawatch Range 14er. Whether you choose a summit in the Elk Mountains or the Sawatch, be sure to follow safety best practices, use leave no trace outdoor ethics, and pack the appropriate gear for your mountain adventure. Safe travels on the trail, and good luck climbing the 14ers near Aspen!
More Resources on the 14ers Near Aspen
Are you still looking for more information about the 14ers near Aspen? There are a lot of other great resources available online. Here are a few articles to get started with. Have an article to suggest we add? Post a comment below with your link or suggestion and we may add it to the next article update.
Alex is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.
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