Elk Range Overview
South Maroon Peak from the summit of Belleview Mountain
The high mountains of Colorado’s Elk Range are among the finest peaks in the Rockies. With Wilderness designation, these protected mountains are rugged, steep and aesthetically pleasing. Crystal clear streams, pristine alpine lakes and lush green vegetation are common sights.
The Elk Range can be sectioned into three sub ranges, the Central Elks (Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak/Snowmass Mountain, and the Conundrum/Taylor River area), the Raggeds (Chair Mountain, Ragged Mountain and the Treasure Mountain massif) and the West Elks (the Beckwith’s, the Owens Mountain massif, West Elk massif and the Anthracite Range.)
The scenic beauty of the Elk Range is mostly due to its unique geology. There are two very distinct geological types of rock that are clearly evident in the Elk Mountains, the tertiary intrusives, and the stratified sedimentary. The whitish, gray rock of the tertiary intrusives is responsible for the sweeping, skinny ridges that connect point-to-point, evident in Snowmass Mountain, The Beckwith’s, Capitol Peak and the Chair Mountain massif. Second, the stratified purplish-red, sedimentary rock of the Permian age, evidenced in mountains like Cathedral Peak, Teocalli Mountain, Pyramid Peak, Maroon Bells and UN13,336.
Over the years, the Elk Range has have remained in respectably good shape. Thanks to the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, we can visit large sections mountainous terrain knowing not much has changed since early exploration.
The Elk Range has a slight reputation for difficult and dangerous climbing due to the loose and crumbling nature of the prevalent geology. Most of the prominent high peaks in this range require solid route finding and climbing skills. If you choose to spend time hiking and climbing the Elks, expect a different experience every time out. The experiences here can be good or bad. It could be an experience you won’t ever forget, or an experience that you want to forget, but can’t.
Belleview Mountain Overview
Have you ever heard of Maroon Peak? Most have…. you ever heard of Belleview Mountain? Most haven’t, which is the way things are in the Elks, the fourteener’s reign supreme while all other mountains rest quietly, underneath a 14,000-ft shadow of warranted accolades and recognition. Anchoring a two-mile, red, rugged and rotten ridge that extends south from South Maroon to West Maroon Pass, Belleview Mountain (13,323-ft) offers more of the same mountaineering qualities of the Maroon Bells massif. I’m talking about that red sedimentary stuff, made possible by the Permian age that frequents other nearby mountains that include the Pyramid Peak massif
, the Owens massif
or Ruby Range, Teocalli Mountain, Buckskin Benchmark
and sections of the Castle Peak massif
, like Cathedral Peak
; it’s beautiful to look at and great for photos, but tedious and dangerous to climb.
A stately mountain, Belleview Mountain along with the more popular Maroon Bells, dedicates its time protecting the pristine upper Fravert Basin to the west and the upper West Maroon Creek Drainage to the east. Both drainages are above tree line, laced with crystal clear runoff, packed with alpine tundra, and loaded with wildflowers in spring and summer.
From West Maroon Pass (12,440-ft) the South Ridge Route looks longer and tougher than it really is, mostly because the route first ascends UN 13,120. However, don’t underestimate the last 100-ft of this climb for it is not for everyone. Be ready for some exposure, while class 3 climbing on especially loose rock. The addition of any snow or ice makes this route more challenging. I would recommend a helmet for this route as well.
Maroon Lake Trailhead
Approach Belleview Mountain from the Maroon Lake TH (9,590-ft.) From Aspen, locate a round-about a half mile north on Hwy 82 and drive west on Maroon Lake Road for 9.4 miles to the parking area. From mid- June through October 10th the Maroon Lake road is closed from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. During these hours a shuttle can take you to the trailhead from Ruby Park in downtown Aspen. The shuttle ride is free. Call RFTA at 970-925-3445 or the White River National Forest at 970-925-3445 for schedules.
Date: Aug 08, 2005 8:19 PM
The road up to the trailhead is restricted to day trippers only. Backpackers and climbers are welcome to drive up (in case they need to exit due to emergency after the shuttle service has stopped).
No promises that you'll find a spot at the end of the road, but you should be able to find something at either the East or West Maroon Wilderness Portals. The bus can be flagged down anywhere to take you the rest of the way.
The following was updated 6-30-2005 by Aaron Johnson
Several Colorado wilderness areas now require a free user permit to be in the wilderness, or shortly will require same. The wilderness areas are Holy Cross, Maroon Bells/Snowmass, Mount Evans, and Mount Massive. Permit tags are available at trailheads and are a two part tag. The white part goes in the box provided and the card portion is to be attached to the outside of your pack. There is currently no penalty if one does not have a permit. However, large fines could be levied within a few years for non-compliance. The preferred method now for dealing with violations is education of the users.
The reason for implementation of this required permit is the Forest Service has been unable to obtain accurate data on use patterns from the voluntary sign-in system. The estimated compliance range is currently 10-30%.
The hope is to obtain better data with this new method. While some may feel this is a precursor of some kind of quota system, the opposite is actually true. Accurate information on visitor use patterns will allow the forest service to attempt to evenly distribute impacts and encourage use of alternate trailheads for the same destinations. However, given the magnitude of the state's continuing population boom, folks should not be surprised if quotas in certain areas become a necessity.
Thanks to SP member mtnhiker13 for supplying this vital update via the Colorado Mountain Club's email service.
Specific information can be viewed here
Mountain Conditions Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC)
Click image to enlarge
Click here to view a 7-day forecast for Belleview Mountain
Red TapeThis peak is also in the White River National Forest and as a result a permit system is now in effect. Climbers should register before climbing and carry permits during the climb. Registration forms have been moved to Maroon Lake recently. For a more detailed discussion of the permit issue see the Red Tape Section on the Holy Cross page: More Red Tape
Maps: Maroon Bells, White River National Forest
Aspen Ranger District Office
USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
CreditsAs always-Gerry Roach