LoJ: #374 (Pre-LiDAR #394) / 13,323' Mount Daly

Range › Elks Range
Quadrangle › Capitol Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 10' 19.93", W 107° 04' 06.87" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon Capitol Peak

Peak Summary

Mount Daly is a long day-hike using the same trail as for the 14er, Capitol Peak. We rate the climb as Class 2. The Capitol Creek Trailhead is accessible to vehicles with better than average ground clearance. The last mile and a half can be rather rough. Weekend parking can be problematic as with camping as well. The summit of Mount Daly offers splendid views of the dramatic Capitol Peak and the hiking in the vicinity of Capitol Lake offers meadows of lush wildflowers. Lidar measurements added 23 feet elevation.

Mount Daly SW Ridge Route

Class 2
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From Capitol Creek TH: 16.2mi / 4,660'
  • Trailhead
    • Capitol Creek TH

      If coming from CO82 and Aspen: From the intersection of E. Main St. and S. Galena St. go west on E. Main which will become W. Main, to South 7th St. where you'll follow the usual heavy volume of traffic making a right turn. A few blocks later, turn left, continuing on what will now be CO82 again straight through a traffic circle and past the Aspen Airport Business Center. Continue NW on CO82 to the Town of Snowmass. Do not confuse this town with Snowmass Village. The old Town of Snowmass is past any turnoffs for Snowmass Village by several miles. Total distance is 14.5 miles. There's a traffic light there and a gas station on the south side of the road. Turn left (south) onto CR11, aka: the Snowmass Creek Road.

      If coming from Glenwood Springs: Take the main exit 116 on the north side of I-70. At the traffic circle, almost immediately after the exit, head for Grand Avenue, the main street through downtown Glenwood. From the traffic circle, it's 26.8 miles to Snowmass. Grand Avenue becomes CO82 and passes by the turnoff for Carbondale and Basalt before coming to Snowmass. Turn right (south) onto CR11, aka: Snowmass Creek Road.

      Once on Snowmass Creek Road, drive south. The road will cross Snowmass Creek, then shortly after will come to a "T" intersection. Turn right (west) onto the Capitol Creek Road, aka: CR9 on Trails Illustrated & Google Earth, or N791 on the White River NF map. The basic goal now is to just remain on that road to the trailhead. Shortly after the "T" intersection, continue straight where CR7, aka: E. Sopris Creek Rd. veers off to the right. About 6 miles in from CO82, the road turns to graded, gravel. As the road heads more to the south, avoid turning off onto Monastery Road. Continue past still on CR9 until you come to the road's end at the trailhead. There's a Capitol Creek Guard station about 8 miles in from CO82. The trailhead will be another mile and a half from there. This last section of road becomes quite rough. This is where a 4WD or better-than-average clearance vehicle is useful. For more precise directions, we refer you to Gerry Roach's book on the Colorado Fourteeners. Expect parking on weekends at this trailhead to be congested.


      For most of the drive in on the Capitol Creek Road, you are passing by private property. Please show proper respect. You are not on White River NF land until you 're just about to the trailhead. There are no campgrounds on the drive in and suitable tent spots at the trailhead are few and likely taken by parked vehicles. We can only suggest a "car-camp" here.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Mount Daly SW Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2006

    There are two ways to get back to Capitol Lake from the trailhead. The first way is to drop down on a good trail to Capitol Creek, some 400 feet below the TH on the south face of the ridge. Once down to the creek, there is a bridge to assist in getting across Capitol Creek. The trail #1961, then follows the creek south for nearly three miles to where it crosses an unnamed stream that drains off of Haystack Mtn. For the other route, walk west from the trailhead parking to intersect an old irrigation ditch and a trail that follows the ditch. A few decades back, this ditch trail contoured on the west side of the mountain above Capitol Creek until it joined the Capitol Creek Trail at about 9,600 ft. In 2006, we followed that ditch trail only to find that a little over a mile along it, the trail departs the ditch and gains elevation up close to 10,000 feet before dropping back down to 9,600 to rejoin the Capitol Creek Trail. Because of that extra gain then loss of elevation, this route no longer has any advantage over the Capitol Creek Trail with it's initial loss of 400 feet that must be regained at the end of the day. Both of these trails are described by Roach in more detail in his 14ers book under Capitol Peak.

    If using the ditch trail, once you cross the creek at 9,600 ft. and gain the main trail, you may find the usual herd of cattle that litter the trail with their droppings. Actually, we encountered several on the ditch trail too. One cow followed us for some distance and caused us some concern until we realized, she was separated from her calf and just wanted to protect it from us. Be careful to remain on the trail to Capitol Lake and not turn off onto the Snowmass Creek Trail which comes in at about 9,800 ft. As usual, the flowers as you approach Capitol Lake are abundant. From the lake, begin by hiking up the trail everyone follows to the Capital-Daly ridge/saddle, but after a few hundred feet of gain, veer of to the northeast and contour over into another grassy and shallow gully that leads to the same ridge, but avoids some obstacles along the ridge from the saddle. The upper part of this gully is more rocky and definitely steep. We came out on the ridge at the 12,600 ft. contour.

    Once you have gained the SW ridge of Daly, proceed up the ridge, encountering a few rocky problems, but no real obstacles. Most of it is fairly easy class two, rocky stuff. There is a route up Daly from the West Snowmass Creek side that leads up West Snowmass Creek and ascends the northeast flank of Daly. A little can be found about this route on the internet. While that approach may save a little mileage, it requires even more elevation gain, so we had opted for this more traditional approach up Capitol Creek. After making some seemingly slow progress up the long SW ridge, we finally arrived at the summit around 4 hours after our morning departure. This summit affords a spectacular view of the Capitol massif and makes for some excellent pictures.

    After lunch on the summit, we decided to descend by going back down the ridge a little and then heading down a steep, rock-filled couloir that would eject us to the trail below the lake at about 11,400 ft. We had hoped to find some small scree that would expedite our descent, but found very little. Instead, we struggled and tripped over a lot of small to medium rocks, sent many more tumbling down the mountainside and made a lot of noise that I am sure other hikers in the area noticed and probably thought of us as fools, if they could pick us out of all the rubble. Eventually, we worked our way out of all the mess and finished strolling back to the trail through a flower-strewn meadow, somewhat picked over by the cattle. We paused at the trail to empty our boots of all the small rocks and watched quite a few hikers pass us, heading back down the trail. Having tried this descent first-hand, we don't really recommend it. It probably saves little if any effort compared to just returning down the SW ridge as you came. Enjoy the long slog out to the trailhead.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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