LoJ: #533 (Pre-LiDAR #531) / 13,144' Willoughby Mountain

Range › Elks Range
Quadrangle › Highland Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 08' 33.66", W 106° 59' 42.19" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon UN 13255

Peak Summary

We have suggested climbing Willoughby Mtn. and UN13,255 together as part of a weekend backpack trip up East Snowmass Creek for the "approach." Done this way, Willoughby is a fairly easy but steep Class 2 ascent from a campsite at 11,160 ft. that can be completed in 3-4 hours. The Snowmass Creek Trailhead can be accessed by most any passenger vehicle. If you have more time, there are two more 13ers at the head of this valley you can climb - UN13,350 and UN13,015.

Willoughby Mtn. East Face Route

Class 2
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Snowmass Creek TH: 10.1 mi / 4,740'
RT From Campsite @ 11,160 : 2.1 mi / 1,980'
From Campsite @ 11,160: 1.00 mi / 1,980' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Snowmass Creek TH

      From highway 82 between Basalt and Aspen, turn south at the lighted intersection at the town of "Snowmass" (about 4 miles south of Basalt) and drive about 2 miles to an intersection where you must turn either left or right. Take the left fork and drive east and south on N690. The road is paved another 4 - 5 miles, then becomes, good quality, graded dirt for another 4 miles to where it crosses Snowmass Creek. Beyond the creek crossing, the road climbs uphill to another intersection. Turn right and proceed south on a less maintained road to the trailhead just a few more hundred yards. As you drive that last segment, you will first pass a trailhead for East Snowmass Creek, then a short distance later, you come to the end of the road and the parking and trailhead for the Snowmass Creek trail.

      Over summer weekends, this TH may be filled to capacity with cars parked along the road in. The main parking area serves as the only designated parking for both Snowmass Creek and East Snowmass Creek. No designated camping here, so only vehicle camping, though when the parking is not so crowded, you may be able to pitch a tent nearby. No vault toilets, but at the register, ReStops are provided for use, free of charge. Further access on the road is blocked by a locked gate that marks the property boundary for Snowmass Falls Ranch. Cattle may be close by and the odor can sometimes be strong.

    Approach Map Photos
    • From Snowmass Creek TH via Campsite @ 11,160

      We are using the Snowmass Creek trailhead as the start for this easy backpack approach. You will be better off parking your vehicle there than trying to find a place to cram it in right at the E. Snowmass Creek TH start, which you passed on your drive in to the Snowmass Creek TH. Just walk back a quarter mile on the road to begin your trip. On the White River NF map, the trail number for East Snowmass Creek is 1977 and heads south to eventually go over a pass into Willow Lake Basin. This approach will take you about 3/5ths of the distance to that pass. This trip that nets two 13ers in a less-often visited area of the Elk Mountains, works very well as an "overnight," weekend backpack. Pack in on day one and climb one of the peaks, then day two, climb the other and pack out.

      The backpack in is uneventful and takes about two and a half hours. The trail starts out fairly steep as it gains the upper valley and the creek drainage. It climbs about 600 feet in the first half mile and after that begins to taper off. From a starting elevation of 8,400 ft., backpack to an elevation of about 11,160 ft. The trail is well-used but not too entrenched or rocky and you should have no trouble following it, even when it passes through willowy areas. Some of the vegetation when we were there in early September was beginning to show signs of fall with hints of changing colors. After passing through the wide swath of an avalanche path that comes off of Willoughby and an open meadow by the creek, the trail enters back in some forest and begins to climb more steeply as it departs close proximity to the creek and gains elevation for the upper basin. Just where the trail enters the forest and begins this climb, we found a very nice, unoccupied campsite, nestled in the trees with plenty of protection from the rain. Set up your camp and if the weather is holding, we suggest climbing Willoughby Peak first, since it is right above this campsite.


      See approximate coordinates provided.

      Campsite Locations

      Willoughby Campsite N 39° 08' 54", W 106° 58' 55"

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Willoughby Mtn. East Face

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2009

    Head out from the campsite and hike up the trail a short distance and right where it emerges back out of the trees, turn west and begin hiking up the steep hillside, directly aiming for the Willoughby summit. You will start out on grassy slopes, but as you hike higher, the slope steepens considerably and the grass gives way to clumps of grass and flowers with a large amount of exposed gravel and small loose rock in between. Footing will become a little loose and difficult at times. Higher up, we came across a beautiful, large clump of buttery white paintbrush, nestled up against the maroon rocks. We also found lots of orange lichen growing heavily on the maroon rock as we approached the summit. It took us about two hours from camp, to arrive at the summit, comprised mostly of short, maroon rock outcrops, orange lichen and interspersed tundra.

    The view from the summit offers a chance to see the Snowmass-Capitol massif to the west with the impressive, sweeping rock ridges. This is a great location for some Elk Mountain photography if the weather cooperates. To descend, you can go back as you came, or descend sweeping a little further south off the summit and drop back down to the trail as we did. Another option would be to both climb and descend this summit from the wide avalanche chute just north of the campsite. The lower gradient is less steep than the way we went.

    Additional BETA

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