Elk Range Overview
It makes sense dividing the Elk Range into three regions, the famous Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness(Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak/Snowmass Mountain, and the Conundrum/Taylor River area), the Raggeds Wilderness (Chair Mountain, Ragged Mountain and the Treasure Mountain massif) and the West Elks Wilderness(the Beckwith’s, the Owens Mountain massif, West Elk
massif and the Anthracite Range.) Combined, all three regions provide the perfect introduction into Colorado's spectacular backcountry.
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 beauty of the Elk Range is due to the 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 "Willow Peak."
Over the years, the Elk Range has have remained in respectably good shape, however some of the northern trails are beginning to show some over-use. Thanks to the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, we can visit large sections of mountainous terrain knowing not much has changed since early exploration.
Cats Eye Peak Overview
Many people are familiar with the Elk Range peaks which are accessed from the north, however the story only begins here. Fewer have ventured into the country that lies southwest of the range’s main crest, and this is where you need to go in order to hear the rest of the Elks’ whisperings. The mountains, the trees, and the springs continue to call. Here, tucked quietly away from the rest of the world stands Cats Eye Peak. The name “Cats Eye Peak” for UN 12,670 comes from an inscription on the pages of the summit register which has watched many a season pass by.
Cats Eye Peak resides in just the right spot to provide amazing views. From the summit different drainages extend away from you in nearly every direction. To the northeast you are treated to a wild and unusual view of Capitol Peak, and the main bulk of the high Elks extend to the north and east. The southern horizon is comprised of the beautiful Raggeds. Although it resides in the rugged Elk Range, Cats Eye is a rather gentle mountain. It can be ascended simply via class 2 hiking, however you can also follow the class 3 south ridge to the summit. While it is made of the same Capitol-Snowmass granite, the mountain does not share the same striking character of Capitol, Snowmass or Chair Mountain. Cats Eye is comprised of rock that is both more broken and eroded, yet this is has lent to the mountain’s gentler character. During the summer, broad swaths of green grass and wildflowers sweep right up to the sides of the mountain to the very top where not prevented by rocky crags or scree. You are not likely to see many people once you leave the road to climb Cats Eye. Go away by yourself to a lonely place and rest a while.
As I have spent more time up in the mountains I have come to value a certain need of adventure in my hikes and climbs. It’s a certain need for the land, my mind, and my body to meet under my own energy. Unnecessarily detailed route descriptions can easily spoil this element in my opinion. Following this philosophy, my description and route for Cats Eye Peak will give you the information you need to get to and climb this lovely mountain, while at the same time leaving you to set your own mind to the mountain and discover your own way.
Getting ThereDirections from Carbondale: Starting at the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 133, drive south on Highway 133 for 22.5 miles to the intersection of Highway 133 and CR-3. Turn left and drive east on CR-3 for 6.3 miles to the town of Marble.
Directions form the south: From the top of McClure Pass continue east on Highway 133 as the road winds its way down to the valley below. After roughly 3.38 miles turn right onto CR-3. After driving east for 6.2 miles you will arrive at the town of Marble.
Once at Marble: Continue on CR-3 as it winds its way though town. Continue generally east on the road, FR 314, as it passes Beaver Lake. As the road begins to leave the lake behind, it bends to the left (east northeast) roughly 90 degrees. Start measuring at this curve. At 1.16 miles you will come to a fork in the road. Take the left fork and continue driving up FR 315. At somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.54 miles, you should come across a driveway that leads to the Colorado Outward Bound School. If you pass this driveway you are on the right road, keep on going. At roughly 4.25 miles you may want to look to the left for a pull out near some trees where you can park. You also can continue down the road to 4.89 miles and park at the trailhead.
Please note! A 4wd vehicle is required to reach the trailhead for this climb. Sections of the road are steep and narrow with steep hairpin turns. You will need low 4wd for the drive down. Much of the road is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, and the road appears to be popular among recreational jeep drivers.
Maroon-Snowmass WildernessSopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623
USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
Current Weather & ForecastNational Weather Service