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Maroon Peak

 South Ridge
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: High
Rockfall Potential: High  
Route-Finding: Extreme!  
Commitment: Extreme!  
 
TrailheadMaroon Lake
Start9,590 feet
Summit14,163 feet
Total Gain4,800 feet
RT Length12 miles
AuthorBillMiddlebrook
Last UpdatedSep 2023
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Are You Ready For This?

Maroon Peak is one of the most-difficult of the standard 14er routes; It's long, tedious and dangerous. Don't take it lightly, don't go if you don't have solid Class 3 climb skills and don't go just to check this mountain off your list. If you are unsure of whether or not you have the necessary skills and partners for this climb, consider using a professional guide with proper certifications, at Aspen Expeditions. Watch out for phonies on social media who claim to be a guide but are not affiliated with a guide company. Call the pros.

Trailhead

?PARKING RESERVATION REQUIRED
You must book in-advance to get an overnight parking permit at the Maroon Lake trailhead. There are a limited number of overnight permits available and they will likely be gone/booked before summer. However, they do have a "Midnight-to-Midnight" permit which allows you to drive to the trailhead between midnight and 8am and hike the same day, leaving by midnight. Please visit this page for more information.
?CAMPING RESERVATION REQUIRED
A reservation is required to pack in and camp near Crater Lake and permits are likely gone/reserved for the summer. If you are lucky enough to get a wilderness camp permit, you still have to reserve overnight parking, or ride the shuttle between 8am-5pm, or get dropped off outside of the 8am-5pm window. If you are unable to get a camp permit, you'll have to dayhike and still deal with parking or get dropped off early in the morning. Check for wilderness camping permits at recreation.gov. For reference, check out the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Overnight Permit Zone Map
Drive to Aspen and locate the start of the Maroon Creek road at a roundabout just west of town. Measuring mileage from there, drive 3.2 miles where you'll pass a ranch. At 4.7 miles, reach the U.S. Forest Service entrance station. Reach the trailhead at 9.5 miles. During summer, the road past the entrance station is closed to cars between 8am and 5pm so if you have a parking permit or getting dropped off, make sure it's outside these hours.

Route

Leave the Maroon Lake trailhead and walk west onto the trail near the lake - 1. Pass the lake and start up the Crater Lake trail. Hike approximately 1.75 miles to reach another signed trail junction . Turn left and continue on the West Maroon Creek trail to Crater Lake where you can see The Bells and West Maroon Creek to the southwest - 2. Follow the trail along the right side of the lake and into the trees where you may need to cross some small streams. Exit the trees near the south end of the lake and continue south through heavy ground cover. Cross a talus field ( 3), descend slightly back to the willows and continue south for approx. 0.5 mile to reach a cairned trail junction , at 10,400' - 4. Turn right, and start up the Maroon Peak trail.

The next 2,800' of the route ascends Maroon's east slopes to reach the south ridge. Traverse for approx. 0.5 mile and near 10,900', the trail begins climbing west up the slope - 5. Near 11,600', approach some rock outcroppings and small cliff bands - 6. Follow the trail as it angles left into these outcroppings. The remaining hike to the ridge gets gradually more difficult and the trail a bit harder to follow. Try to stay on the trail as you continue up steep, rocky sections - 7. Near 12,900', gain a ridge crest and turn right to follow the steep, loose trail toward the crest of the south ridge - 8. Reach the South Ridge at a small notch, near 13,250'. Climb right out of the notch and over a rock outcropping to see the remaining route - 9. If the weather is brewing or you have some very tired party members, this is a good place to decide whether or not to proceed. Speedy climbers will take at least 1.5 hours to reach the summit from here. If you're not one of those climbers, plan on 2 or more hours to reach the top.

The remaining route requires careful route finding and you may find slight variations from the route description. Take your time to study the terrain and look for the safest route possible. 9 and 10 show the route but not all aspects of it can be seen from this area. In short: Staying on the west side of the ridge, traverse through complicated terrain for approx. 0.4 mile, around Point 13,753', and continue on the west side before gaining the south ridge just below the summit.

Follow a cairned trail on the west side of the ridge for roughly 0.1 mile and turn right to find a chimney between some rock towers - 11. Climb the chimney, turn left, and climb up through a large crack - 12. Now above 13,400', continue onto easier terrain where the next section is visible - 13. Cross below a notch ( 14) and climb to a large, white rock band. Continue across ledges and around a corner to a point where you can see Point 13,753' - 15. Continue on more ledges to reach ugly terrain before Point 13,753' - 16.

The route gets more serious here and some difficult route-finding is ahead. Study the terrain and look for cairns in the distance to avoid backtracking. As seen in 16, there are two obvious gullies ahead and either one can be climbed - both may have cairns leading into them. Your goal is to climb about half way up either gully to reach cairned ledges before continuing left around the west side of Point 13,753'. Drop a bit to reach the base of a gully and carefully begin climbing along the side of the gully. There's a lot of loose rock in this area. As you climb, take time to locate cairns to the left so you don't climb too high. If you climb the first gully, exit it near 13,500' and traverse left on a ledge to reach the second, then climb a bit higher to an exit point on the left, near 13,550' - 17. Continue left on ledges to a robot-shaped rock ( 18) and around a corner to reach the broad gully separating Point 13,753' and the summit - 19.

Enter the gully, turn right and ascend ( 20 and 21) to the top of it, at a notch in the south ridge. Turn left, climb onto ledges ( 22) and continue to a small slope, covered with exposed ledges. This slope holds some of the most difficult and exposed climbing on the route. After passing some initial cliffs, turn right and ascend approximately 150' before traversing left across the slope - 23 and 24. On the far side of this slope, pass below some cliffs to reach a corner - 25. There are several points where you can reach the corner, so you may not reach this exact point. Turn right around the corner and scramble a short distance up to the ridge crest - 26, 27 and 28. Follow the ridge to the summit - 29, 30 and 31.

Notes

This route holds some dangerous terrain and plenty of tedious route finding. Attempt the route only if you are in good shape, have ample time, and a favorable weather forecast. 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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