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Conundrum Peak

 South Ridge
Difficulty Difficult Class 2 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Moderate  
TrailheadCastle Creek
Start9,800 feet
Summit14,037 feet
Total Gain4,400 feet if you start at the main trailhead
2,900 feet if you start at 11,200'
RT Length13.5 miles if you start at the main trailhead
7 miles if you start at 11,200'
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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Take Castle Creek from the roundabout just west of the center of Aspen. Drive 12.5 miles (paved) to the Castle Creek trailhead. To the right, Forest Road (FR) 102 continues all all the way to 12,800'. Good-clearance passenger cars can drive about 1 mile up this road to reach the dispersed camp sites along the road. If you want to shorten your hike by parking higher, you must have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance. From the lower trailhead parking area, proceed to a river crossing, at 1.3 miles. In spring and early summer, this crossing is a challenge for some 4WD vehicles. At 3 miles, reach the Pearl Pass junction and stay right on the Castle Creek 102 road. If you drove up this far, there are a few parking spots near the junction. The road gets worse as it ascends into Montezuma Basin all the way to 12,800'.


Want to hike Conundrum Peak only, via its easiest route? This is the route for you...

From the 2WD trailhead, drive up FR 102 where you'll find marked camping spots along the first 1.25 miles. Near 10,200' and 1.3 miles up the road, reach a creek crossing which has a footbridge - 1. If the road is open/clear beyond this point and you have a 4WD vehicle, you can drive higher. Low-clearance vehicles should NOT attempt this crossing, especially in early summer when the water is high. If you plan on driving across, it's best to walk over the footbridge first to see what you're up against. Cross Castle Creek and continue nearly 2 miles to the Pearl Pass road junction, at 11,150' - 2. Turn right at the junction and follow the road up into Montezuma Basin - 3 and 4. Pass the Montezuma Mine and continue another 0.5 mile to the end of the road, at 12,800' - 5.

Without a trail, you must now ascend a headwall blocking easy access to the upper basin - 6, and 7. Gain 500' of elevation to reach the upper basin, near 13,400' - 8. Your next goal is to ascend a steep slope below the Castle-Conundrum saddle - 9. The slope holds snow through much of the summer. Hike to the west side of the basin and traverse up the snow (hopefully) slope under the saddle - 10, 11 and 12. This slope is the crux of the route and, in late summer, you may encounter some loose dirt/scree below the saddle. Gain the 13,800-foot saddle.

From the saddle, the route up Conundrum's south ridge is fairly obvious - stay near the ridge crest and follow trail segments up through loose rock and small ledges to reach the summit ridge - 13. Hike up a short distance, pass a rock outcropping ( 14), and continue to reach a flat area on the ridge - 15. Above this area, the terrain gets a bit steeper but the difficulty does not exceed "Difficult Class 2." Look for trail segments and breaks in the rocks that provide passage along the ridge - 16. Continue up through broken rock ( 17) to reach the south end of the summit ridge - 18. Conundrum has two "summits" and the true one is to the north. Hike to the middle of the summit ridge to reach a notch between the two summits - 19. Drop into the notch, cross the flat area and climb the final pitch ( 20) to reach the summit - 21.


If you don't have a good-clearance 4WD vehicle, park below the creek crossing. If you continue above the crossing, there are small pull-offs near 11,000' and the Pearl Pass road junction. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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