Welcome hikers to my article on Capitol Peak. My name is Meagan Roxbury and I grew up in New Jersey. Growing up, I spent most of my time in cities and not in mountains or on trails. I eventually purchased a house in New Jersey and lasted about six months before I realized the go to work, come home, cook, binge TV and do it all over again was not going to cut it for me.
I then watched Into the Wild and got inspired. I sold my house, saved every dime and came out to the mountains in search of something more. Now I have done 49 14ers! It’s funny, when I first started my 14er journey I watched a video of Capitol Peak and said: “Hell no, I am not doing that”!
Eventually, a goal to finish all of them became a reality, and any fear I had faded as my confidence grew. I made sure to get some mountains under my belt that I felt would prepare me for it. Now, it’s my favorite mountain.
What it’s Like Climbing Capitol Peak
We started at the main trailhead, which is about a 6.5 mile hike to camp. From there, the next morning we took the standard route which was about 4.85 miles round trip and 2,718 feet of elevation gain. Our moving time was 3:25:11. These are all statistics I accumulated on my strava device on the way.
The terrain on Capitol Peak, in my opinion, was not nearly as messy to navigate as other mountains I have done. You begin with a steep short trek to the ridge. From here, from what I can remember, we did have a good trail for some time and eventually came to a boulder field. After the boulder field we came to K2, which turned out to be quite easy to navigate.
Next you will come to the well known area called Knife Edge. Again, I can only speak for myself, but this is not nearly as intimidating as photos make it out to be. That being said, I certainly don’t think it’s for people who aren’t comfortable with exposure, heights or have no experience.
Much of the edge you can walk across with strongholds. It’s just important to know your comfort levels. The exposure is no joke. From Knife Edge, it’s a pretty simple trek (if you have a map and have studied it) to the summit!
My Favorite Moments from this 14er
Sunrise is my favorite part of any hike and the same is true with Capitol Peak. I always start early to watch the sunrise, to see it from that high up, with no one but your friends there to enjoy it. There is nothing better! I also loved Knife Edge. The exposure made it a rush. I couldn’t help but laugh as I was straddling this mountain, scooching my way to the other side.
Who is Capitol Peak Suited For?
I don’t think this mountain is a good choice for casual hikers. I want to be clear: this is not in any way like hiking (for example) the popular Quandary Peak. Many people have died on this peak and it should be taken very seriously. The most important thing is to have a map downloaded and make sure it’s studied. Many people have gone off route on this peak.
When you are up there, it’s easy to see how people could make fatal mistakes. If you are not comfortable with exposure, you will not have a good time, and the Knife Edge is no place for a panic attack. Rockfall is another danger. You will want good weather too, as with all Colorado 14ers.
Also, don’t be fooled by the mileage. Just because it’s less than five miles round trip from Capitol Lake, it’s still a time consuming mountain. An early start is a must to avoid afternoon storms. I listed my group’s time above, but we are quick hikers and are quite comfortable on terrain such as this.
Tips for Hiking Capitol Peak
When we did this hike a ranger had stopped us asking our opinion on permits for the area, because it seems camping at Capitol Lake is becoming a problem and trash is being left behind. If you have been in the Colorado Backcountry, you know how beautiful it is. We need to all do our part to take care of it and keep it clean. Pack out what you bring in. Always.
My biggest tips are don’t go unless you are experienced, know what you are getting into, watch videos, study your map and have great weather. It’s a stunning mountain and if you are comfortable with class 3/4 climbs and have the proper gear, you will love it! Just be smart and learn from the mistakes of others. Remember, the mountain will always be there.