Mt. Aetna, by the route we suggest is a Class 2 hike via the ridge that connects to Taylor Mtn. Our proposed trailhead is CR228 at the old marble quarry at 11,680 ft. on the east side of Taylor. Aetna is sequenced then with Taylor. The trailhead is accessible to vehicles with higher ground clearance and is a few off-pavement miles from US50 and the small community of Garfield.
Mt. Aetna East Ridge Route
From Gunnison, drive up and over Monarch Pass on US50 and down to the small resort town of Garfield. Continue east on US50 from Garfield for another 4.8 miles to the turnoff for CR224 on the left (north) side of the highway. Coordinates are: N 38° 32' 30.94" W 106° 13' 01.72".
From Poncha Springs, drive west on US50. At the small community of Maysville, measure from the intersection of CR240 (this is the road taken to access the Shavano Campground and the one of the climbing routes for Tabeguache & Shavano.) and US50 and drive another 1.6 miles west to the turnoff for CR224 on the right (north) side of the highway. Same coordinates as above. Elevation 8,515 ft.
Once on CR224, drive generally north for 1.5 miles to where CR224 makes a sharp turn to the left and becomes CR228. Continue for several miles on CR228 which follows along and above Cree Creek. At 6.5 miles appx., CR228 will come to an old marble quarry on the right. Elevation here is 11,680 ft. That will keep Taylor & Aetna a sporting hike. Park here if you do not have 4WD with good clearance. If you do have one, you can continue up CR228 another three-quarter mile to an elevation of just above 12,000 located on a broad eastern ridge of Taylor. Park in this vicinity to begin your hike.
Alternate Approach: On US50, just a little east of Garfield, turn north onto CR228 at these coordinates: N 38° 33' 02.63" W 106° 17' 10.53". The road follows up Taylor Gulch and passes the "Garfield Mine." At 3.1 miles, the now much rougher road leaves the gulch and switchbacks four times to the west, then makes a long contouring ascent to the same broad, eastern ridge of Taylor mentioned above where you can park at about 12,000 ft. While the overall mileage of this access is shorter, it will not save much time because of the slower driving on the 4WD road.
The best National Forest CG we can recommend is the Monarch Park CG, the turnoff of which is located 3.2 miles west of Garfield on US50. CR233 turns off on the south side of the highway and descends to cross the creek, then continues south to the campground. Where the road crosses the creek, there are some primitive sites there if the campground is full. Our last visit there, they were doing beetle-kill mitigation and so some sites were closed. Overall, this is a nice location. Coordinates for the turnoff from US50 are: N 38° 31' 43.46" W 106° 19' 31.69". Campground coordinates are below. Here's a link to the San Isabel NF report on that campground: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/psicc/recarea/?recid=12677
For primitive camping closer to the TH, where CR228 reverses direction at the old marble quarry, there appears to be some primitive camping in that location, and if you drive up from there to the SW, the road passes some old cabin structures where there also appears to be some primitive sites.
Monarch Park ›
N 38° 30' 58.57", W 106° 19' 25.90"
Elevation 10,500 ft.
From Taylor Mountain
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From the suggested trailhead at 11,680 feet by the old marble quarry, walk on up CR228 in a generally south-westward direction as the road gains another 400 feet in elevation. The road will cross over to the south side of the broad east ridge of Taylor. At about 12,000 feet elevation, go ahead and depart the road and head directly toward the Taylor summit. There will still be some old mining roads that you can utilize, but they make longer switchbacks up the mountainside that you may not want to waste time on. Hiking along the lower tundra ridge, you'll encounter several ruins of mining activity. At 13,000 ft., the mountainside steepens considerably and becomes rockier, but there is still plenty of tundra to work with. The ridge swings in a more northward direction as you head for the summit. Most groups should be able to gain the summit in under two hours.
Once on the summit, study the long connecting ridge over to Mt. Aetna. It goes at Class 2 with one minor rock-band step. Traversing the ridge is time-consuming. You'll also enjoy a bird's-eye view of the 14ers, Tabeguache and Shavano to the north.
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Year Climbed: 1989
Mt. Aetna is sequenced with Taylor Mountain for an average-length day-hike from our suggested trailhead at the old marble quarry on CR228. One way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Taylor Mtn. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assumes completion of the sequence.
This route description is fairly brief and simple. From the summit of Taylor Mtn. walk west along the connecting ridge over to Mt. Aetna. The ridge makes a sweeping arc that looks down upon a great bowl between the two peaks. SSE of the Aetna summit is an area on the map called "Hoffman Park." A rough 4WD road leads up into that basin and the two summits can be hiked from there utilizing an old mining road that will lead up the SSE ridge of Aetna.
The ridge that connects Aetna and Taylor is a mix of low tundra, embedded rocks, rubble and talus. The mile and a half distance will take some time, perhaps as much as 45 minutes one way. You will gradually descend from Taylor for 2/3rds of the distance before reaching the low spot between the two peaks. Then the hike up to Aetna steepens as you gain the 725 feet in elevation. There are no significant difficulties to report other than one rock step going up to Aetna after the saddle. IN 1989, we did these two summits with very threatening weather that forced us to scurry as quickly along the connecting ridge as possible and ducking a few bolts of lightening. Taking detailed notes on the ridge traverse was not on our plate that day.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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