Haystack Mountain, Maroon Snowmass Trailhead - Snowmass Falls Ranch, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Haystack Mountain - 12.9 miles

Maroon Snowmass Trailhead - Snowmass Falls Ranch

View from Haystack Mountain across the saddle to Mount Daly

View from Haystack Mountain across the saddle to Mount Daly

Round-Trip Length: 12.9 miles (distance will vary by route)
Start-End Elevation: 8,408' - 12,206' (12,206' max elevation on summit)
Elevation Change: +3,798' net elevation gain (+4,176' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Haystack Mountain - 12.9 Miles Round-Trip

Haystack Mountain (12,206') is located 6.45 miles from Maroon Snowmass Trailhead in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Its broad, flat summit tops a divisive ridge between the Capitol Creek and West Snowmass Creek drainages, just north of a saddle under Mount Daly (13,305').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This challenging and lightly used trail rises through steep intervals of aspen and alpine meadows to the saddle (11,752'), where you'll branch off and improvise .35 miles and 454' up to the summit.

Postcard-like meadows span the saddle between Haystack and Mount Daly, with exceptional views that include Mount Sopris, Capitol Peak and the Maroon Bells. Wildflowers and wildlife are particularly abundant in this rich alpine expanse.

Crossing Snowmass Creek can be difficult through mid-summer, and portions of the trail are vague with several unmarked forks at critical points. Good fitness and navigation skills are necessary. Lingering snow may compound any difficulty you encounter.

Alternatively you can reach West Snowmass Trail from the Capitol Creek and Nickelson Creek trails, with simpler navigation but equally challenging climbs. Contact the Aspen Ranger District for current road and trail conditions, which may influence your starting point and route:

The trail rises over Snowmass Falls Ranch through tall aspen to a second cattle gate where the forest opens with views of Snowmass Creek (1.1 miles : 8,648').

It levels on a high bank to the West Snowmass Trail split (1.45 miles : 8,638'), which switchbacks down to Snowmass Creek (1.52 miles : 8,600'). The creek is wide and runs swiftly through mid-summer; poles can be useful on this ford.

Once across follow National Forest signs through a big meadow with views up to Clark Peak (13,568'). Note this is private property, so it's important to stay on the designated trail.

It crosses the meadow into bands of aspen where you'll keep straight past several bisecting paths to another cattle gate (1.9 miles :  8,780'). Travel intensifies past the gate on a rugged, shifting path under a tall aspen canopy.

Keep left at a fork (2.0 miles) where grades steepen to a high bank over a tributary  (2.5 miles : 9,235'). It levels and arcs across the drainage before climbing steeply again to a small meadow (3.18 miles : 9,595'). Travel eases to another meadow (3.45 miles : 9,710') and crosses the base of a steep slope to an unmarked fork (3.85 miles : 9,957').

The left fork drops into a large meadow along West Snowmass Creek where you can pick up an informal route leading to its source at Moon Lake. The right fork quickly fades, leaving few good options.

The following description and distances from this point assume you're able to find a creative route to the next point where the trail clarifies .3 miles away. Note this is a direct line, so your actual travel distance may be longer.

Cut through heavy brush and steep slopes to regain the trail on a high clearing (4.15 miles : 10,230'). The trail here is narrow and may be overgrown by tall brush. Once on track it steepens to another unmarked fork (4.48 miles) - stay right.

The trail runs along the base of an open slope before turning up on a steep, winding climb to the Nickelson Creek Trail split (4.95 miles : 10,825'), a welcome sign confirming you're on track. Travel briefly moderates past the split across steep meadows with great views of Mount Daly.

It rises quickly through alpine glades and pockets of spruce to a meadow in the upper basin where the trail fades. Follow a cairn (5.5 miles : 11,295') and faint track across the meadow to regain the trail, which resumes steep, winding travel past treeline to the Pass (6.1 miles : 11,752').

The pass spans a broad meadow with great views down Capitol Creek, the Daly-Capitol Peak ridge line and (right) up to Haystack. 

Break off the trail here and head north on a .35 mile - 454' scramble up to Haystack Mountain (6.45 miles : 12,206'). The scramble is steep but rock-free and easy to find an efficient route.

The summit is broad and flat with incredible views that extend from Mount Sopris to Maroon Bells. Tread lightly across the delicate tundra. Mount Daly (13,305') stands prominently across the pass with Capitol Peak (14,130') nudging higher just behind it.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 11.992 W106 59.643 — 0.0 miles : Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead
  • N39 11.825 W107 00.073 — .5 miles : Fast travel in aspen forest
  • N39 11.602 W107 00.647 — 1.1 miles : Pass through cattle gate
  • N39 11.403 W107 00.877 — 1.45 miles : West Snowmass Trail split
  • N39 11.479 W107 00.831 — 1.52 miles : Cross Snowmass Creek
  • N39 11.638 W107 00.980 — 1.75 miles : Keep straight at false split
  • N39 11.694 W107 01.046 — 1.9 miles : Pass through cattle gate
  • N39 11.717 W107 01.086 — 2.0 miles : Keep left at vague fork
  • N39 11.725 W107 01.443 — 2.5 miles : Level around top of tributary drainage
  • N39 11.641 W107 01.743 — 2.92 miles : Cross small stream
  • N39 11.490 W107 01.886 — 3.18 miles : Cross small meadow
  • N39 11.424 W107 02.149 — 3.45 miles : Cross small meadow
  • N39 11.281 W107 02.534 — 3.85 miles : Trail forks without directional clarity
  • N39 11.165 W107 02.744 — 4.15miles : Trail regains clarity on high open slope
  • N39 11.210 W107 02.982 — 4.48 miles : Trail forks, keep right
  • N39 11.293 W107 03.084 — 4.95 miles : Nickelson Creek Trail split
  • N39 11.243 W107 03.618 — 5.5 miles : Cairns marks vague trail across meadow
  • N39 11.380 W107 03.788 — 5.85 miles : Steep climb through alpine meadows
  • N39 11.398 W107 04.006 — 6.1 miles : Reach the saddle under Haystack (11,776')
  • N39 11.630 W107 03.953 — 6.45 miles : Haystack Mountain (12,206')

Worth Noting

  • This is a strenuous trail with potential navigational challenges. Consider your skill level and weather conditions before setting out.
  • Be mindful of private property lines in the first 2+ miles. Fishing and hunting is not permitted on private / ranch property.
  • Portions of this trail are used by ranchers - you may see free range cattle on the first 3+ miles of the trail.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.
  • Bear Canisters are now required for overnight backcountry stays in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).
  • Campfires are permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream. Location and seasonal-specific restrictions may also apply.
  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) or Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted along West Snowmass Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license. Be mindful of private property lines in the lower valley (fishing is not available to the public on private lands).

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead is located on Divide Road on the (west) backside of Snowmass Village.

From Highway 82, turn onto Brush Creek Road and follow it 5.4 miles to Divide Road. Bear right on Divide Road and continue past Krabloonik Restaurant and Kennels, where it will turn steeply down toward the valley floor and turn to dirt/gravel.

Keep left at the fork and continue to the dead-end parking lot at Snowmass Falls Ranch. The trailhead is 1.6 miles from the point where the road turns to dirt. High clearance is preferable but may be attempted by 2WD cars when the road is clear.

Contact Information

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

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