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Snowmass Mountain

West Slope
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: High
Rockfall Potential: High  
Route-Finding: High  
Commitment: High  
Start9,720 feet
Summit14,105 feet
Total Gain4,500 feet
RT Length9.00 miles
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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From Carbondale, drive 21.5 miles south on CO 133. Turn left on Gunnison County Road 3 toward the town of Marble (this road may be labeled as FR 314 on some maps). Measure the mileage from here:

  • Drive 5.5 miles to the center of Marble and continue through the town.
  • Pass a church at 5.8 mi. and Beaver Lake at 6.2 mi.
  • At 7.0 miles, the road becomes rough.
  • At 7.7 miles, there is a junction. Turn left on FR 315 for Lead King Basin.
  • The remaining 6+ miles is rough and narrow. 4wd vehicles only.
  • At 9.7 miles, there is another junction. Stay left on FR 315.
  • After a long drive with many switchbacks, cross a small stream to reach a corner at 13.8 miles.
  • Continue a bit farther south down the road and cross the creek again to reach the actual trailhead, shortly after. The trail start on the east side of the road, in the parking area.


Caution: This is not the standard route on Snowmass and it holds a lot of large, loose rock on the 2,000' leading up to the summit.

1, 2 and 3 are views of Snowmass and the approach, taken from northwest of the trailhead. From the trailhead, follow the excellent trail about 0.4 miles to a trail junction. Stay left on the trail to Geneva Lake. Continue through bushes as the trail swings left and climbs the hillside - 4. Follow the trail to 10,700' where it crosses the slope above a waterfall - 5. Hike briefly through forest and pass a small pond enroute to Geneva Lake - 6. Reach Geneva Lake at 11,000' - 7 and 8. There are numbered campsites and some social trails near the lake. Turn left towards campsite #4 and continue north. The lake is down to the right - 9. Hike through an open area near the north end of the lake and onto a small hill. Continue through trees and into a large meadow. Follow the trail across the meadow and up another slope - 10, 11 and 12. Ascend to Little Gem Lake at 11,700' - 13. Pass the lake and continue approx. 0.25 mile before turning east and descending slightly to the stream that leads to Geneva Lake. As you descend, this is a good time to study the route ahead. The west slope has a lot of ribs and gullies and nothing on this slope looks "easy" from this point.

The easiest route follows a large gully in the middle of the face - 14. If care is taken throughout the climb, this route has only a few Class 3 sections. To find the main gully, locate a patch of grass near the cliffs on the west slope. This patch is above the white talus that has accumulated above the stream. Cross the stream and begin the ascent. Near 12,400', reach the base of the slope - and hike onto the grassy patch in 15. 16 shows the slope from a different angle. Climb past the grass and onto more difficult terrain. The remainder of the climb is loose and requires some Class 3 scrambling. Above the grass, you are to the left of the gully. Keep climbing until you bypass the more difficult terrain at the base of this gully. Near 12,800', traverse right into or onto the left side of the gully and follow it toward the summit.

By now, you have probably figured out that not much of the rock here is stable. Even large rocks can be quite "tippy." Near 13,600' you can see the summit ridge directly above. Climb toward the ridge - 18. At 13,800' the large rock is a bit more stable. 19 and 20 show the last 200' to the summit ridge. 21 and 22 look down on the route. Pass 14,000' and gain the narrow summit ridge - 23. Turn right and carefully climb toward the summit - 24. There is significant exposure on your left (east) side. Bypass several large rocks by dropping slightly to the right before regaining the ridge crest. 25 and 26 look back along the ridge. You will reach the summit ( 27) after a couple of these moves. From the top, 28 is the view of Snowmass Lake and 29 looks back on the route and Geneva Lake.


Loose rock is the biggest concern on this route. The 4wd road to Lead King is rough and has a lot of sharp corners - not recommended for a long 4wd vehicle. 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.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21 #22 #23 #24 #25 #26 #27 #28 #29

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