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Colorado: A fall hike on Castle Peak

Guidebook author Kim Fenske shares trail beta and photos from a Colorado classic

Aspen's famed Maroon Bells, seen from the Castle Peak area.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Castle Peak is a majestic fortress, diminished only by the magnificent company it keeps. Since the more renowned peaks of Maroon, North Maroon, Pyramid, and Snowmass lie close at hand, Castle Peak rests in relative peace.

From Summit County, Castle Peak Trailhead is a hundred miles away. Climb over Independence Pass, drop through Aspen, and turn from the roundabout to Castle Creek Road. Castle Creek Road leads to a jeep road that is the beginning of a six-mile ascent to the summit of Castle Peak. The abandoned silver mining town of Ashcroft is nestled among aspen meadows on Castle Creek Road, ten miles below the remains of the Montezuma-Tam O’Shanter Mine.

A golden-mantled ground squirrel on Castle Peak.

The Castle Peak Trailhead, 9,850 feet, is located at the end of the paved road up Castle Creek four miles past Ashcroft.   The trailhead parking area is appropriate for low-clearance vehicles. The hike along the high-clearance, rock-strewn road passes through high meadows filled with wildflowers and dense stands of fir and spruce. An ascent to the summit involves establishing a base camp three miles up the jeep road at 11,500 feet, near Castle Creek and the junction with Pearl Pass jeep road.  The base camp is approximately three miles below the summit.

Next morning, hike one mile beyond tree-line and view the remnants of the Montezuma-Tam O’Shanter Mine.  Another mile beyond the mine, a boulder field at 12,750 feet covers the bowl created by the joined peaks of Castle Peak, 14,265 feet, and Conundrum Peak, 14,060 feet. The pond located in the boulder field is the last opportunity to filter drinking water for the hike up to the summit. From the base of the boulder field, the summit of Castle Peak is only three to four hours away.

The north slope of Castle Peak.

Ascend through the left side of the boulder field on a rough path marked by cairns. A clear gravel path leads toward the ridge of Castle, opposite Conundrum.  Hike up to the steps of a rampart beneath the ridge and scramble up the rock face to 13,850 feet.  Remain on the ridge and follow traces of a pathway ascending to the summit.  The last 400 vertical feet involve remaining centered on somewhat exposed spires. After dropping a few feet down to a chute of gravel, the final challenge is stepping up a vertical seam approximately eight feet in height to reach a flat tablet at the summit. A spectacular view of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area is revealed at the summit of Castle Peak.

Blue columbine.

Close and personal with a honeybee.

Steps to the summit of Castle Peak.

The ridgeline trail on Castle Peak.

Expansive views to the west from Castle Peak.

Amphitheater to Conundrum.

Author Kim Fenske on the summit of Castle Peak.

Kim Fenske is a former wilderness ranger, firefighter who has hiked thousands of miles in the Colorado mountains. He has served on the board of directors of Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

Fenske has authored several hiking books filled with hundreds of photographs of Colorado wildlife, wildflowers, and scenery. His books are enjoyed by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts. His current electronic book titles are published on Amazon for Kindle, as well as Barnes and Noble for Nook. Search for these titles: “Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado,” “Holy Cross Wilderness Area,” and “Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.”

More stories by Kim Fenske:

 

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One Response

  1. Today’s series of posts, show the majestic vistas to enjoy in Colorado, but are threatened by the dilettantes in control of the Congress, who are beholden to their paymasters. It’s up to each individual to keep alert to the behind the scenes taking place in regards to environment, especially when it comes to the Oil & Gas & the Coal people who want to drill & dig. This means down at the local level too, especially here.

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