Snowmass Mountain: 14,092 ft, 14er Rank #31/53

Snowmass Mountain - featured on Colorado 14ers Map 11 of 16 - is another tough Elk Mountains fourteener located deep in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Not to be confused with nearby Snowmass Peak (13,630' elevation) or the Snowmass ski resort hills, remote Snowmass Mountain does not lend itself to a simple day hike.

Snowmass Mountain is often misidentified, as it sits unassumingly off from Snowmass Peak, which looms over Snowmass Lake. Snowmass Mountain is the peak with the arrow pointing to it in the picture below (photo from Snowmass Lake):

Snowmass Mountain

"Snowemas Lake Panorama" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by mtneer_man

Based on an expedition by the Hayden Survey in 1874, Snowmass Mountain was described in the Annual Report of the USGS in 1876 (by F. V. Hayden) as having received its name from "an immense field of snow on its eastern face... this snow-field, in August... had an area of full five square miles... this is probably the nearest approach to a glacier in the Rocky Mountains." That snowfield remains today, but is quite a bit smaller than in the mid 1800s.

Snowmass Mountain is accessible from one of a few approaches - the shortest and perhaps least common being from the Geneva Lake Trailhead (9,685' elevation) in Lead King Basin (4x4) to reach the route to the West Slopes of the mountain. From the trailhead, the Geneva Lake Trail #1973 heads north towards Geneva Lake, passing the turn-off to the right to the North Fork Trail #1974 after 0.6 miles, where it reaches the north end of the lake after another 1.6 miles past the North Fork Trail junction. Just before the Geneva Lake Trail begins to turn right/east around the lake, the Snomwass Mountain West Slopes trail turns off to the left, continuing north. This begins the 2.1 mile steep Class 3 (scrambling) route up the summit.

More commonly approached from the east, hikers can take the Snowmass Trailhead (8,400' elevation) off Snowmass Creek Road (west of Snowmass Village) and hike 8 miles south along Snowmass Creek via the Maroon-Snomwass Trail #1975 to Snowmass Lake, where many choose to camp in preparation for climbing Snowmass' east slopes the following day. From the Lake, the east slopes route follows the southern edge of the lake before heading up the east slopes of the peak 2.2 miles (also Class 3) after leaving the Maroon-Snowmass Trail #1975.

Also accessible from the popular Maroon Lake Trailhead, one can take the Maroon-Snowmass Trail #1975 8 miles to Snowmass Lake.  Finally, one can also use the East Fork / Schofield Trailhead north of Crested Butte to access Geneva Lake.  From the trailhead, follow West Maroon Pass Trail #1970 for 3.1 miles to the junction with the North Fork Trail #1974 and follow this trail 8.3 miles to its junction with the Geneva Lake Trail mentioned above.

As with all Elk Mountain 14ers, Snowmass Mountain is not a beginner 14er and should probably be tackled once comfortable with easier 14ers in other ranges. Whenever you're ready to take on the remote Snowass Mountain, remember to respect your limits, stay hydrated, ensure the weather is appropriate for an ascent and don't forget your 14ers maps and compass. Snomwass Mountain is one of the two fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Map 11 of 16.

Directions to Trailheads:

For the Snowmass Trailhead, turn west on Snowmass Creek Road off CO Hwy 82 at the small town of Snowmass, CO. Follow this road for 11.4 miles to the end of the road where you'll see the signed trailhead.

For the Geneva Lake Trailhead at Lead King Basin (this is a 4x4 approach), take CO Hwy 133 south from Carbondale (off CO Hwy 82) for 21.5 miles and take a left on County Road 3. Follow this road 6 miles to the town of Marble, where you'll have to turn left/north onto 3rd Street briefly before turning right/east onto Main Street. After crossing the creek on Main Street, turn left/north again onto East 3rd Street for one block before turning right/east again onto E Silver Street to leave town. 1.7 miles after turning onto E Silver Street, turn left at the fork onto Lost Trail Read (Forest Service Road 315) towards Lead King Basin where the road becomes 4x4-only. After about 6 more miles, on Lost Trail Road, watch out for the Trailhead on the left after a series of switchbacks.

For Maroon Lake Trailhead, take Colorado Hwy 82 about a 0.5 mile west of Aspen to the large traffic circle and take the exit south from it onto Maroon Lake Road. Follow Maroon Lake Road for 9.5 miles to the parking lot/trailhead. In the Summer, this lot may be accessible via shuttle bus only from the Highland Ski Area Parking Lot or Rubey Park.

For the East Fork/Schofield Trailhead, from the north end of the town of Crested Butte, follow Gothic Road / County Road 317 for 14 miles to the trailhead on the right side of the road.

Feature image: "Snowmass Mountain" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by mara_hancock


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