Capital Peak

Near Snowmass Village, CO


I my opinion, the Capital Peak overlook is one of the most beautiful place in the whole state of Colorado. This special place will simply take your breath away!

When you finally make it to the top of a pretty serious dirt road (very narrow at the end with lots and lots of bumps) and arrive at the Capital Peak overlook/trailhead, you are greeted by one of the most stunning vistas you will ever see. Made up of Aspen trees, green forests, creeks, S shaped valleys and the Capitol Peak mountain range in the distance. This place seems almost imaginary (like it was from a painting or a Hollywood studio). If that is not good enough, during the fall months the Capitol peak glows red at dusk as the last light of the evening fades away. As you can tell, I really like this location.

Trail Difficulty - MODERATE TO HARD

I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 3.5 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike to the location is an easy 50yd walk, but the road to this location can be a bit challenging (especially the last mile or so).

I would strongly suggest a high clearance vehicle because the last mile or so drives through a very narrow dirt road with lots of very high berms. If you get high centered on one of the berms, it would be almost impossible to turn around.

The first time I drove to this location (I got sketchy directions from a guy I met at Maroon Bells) I thought the guy was playing a game on me and had sent me on a wild goose chase. I kept driving because there was no way to turn around. Finally, at the top of this dirt road appears a parking area. And then you turn to the left and WOW!!

Download KMZ Trail File

Click Here to download the KMZ file for this location.

GPS Coordinates & Elevation

Google Maps Birds-Eye-View

Click link above to view location in Google Earth


CLICK HERE to get driving directions to Capital Peak Overlook parking lot.

 The following directions are from Aspen, CO. The closest other towns are Basalt 27 miles (45 min) and Carbondale 38 mile (1 hour).

From Aspen, travel west on CO-82 for approx. ½ mile until you get to the traffic circle. At the traffic circle drive another 13.1 miles on CO-82 until you get to a sign for Snowmass Creek Rd which is nothing but a Conoco gas station (do not confuse this with Snowmass Village)

Take a right at the red light (Conoco gas station) and travel on Capital Creek Rd/Snowmass Creek Rd for 1.7 miles until you reach the stop sign at a T in the road. Take a right (Capital Creek Rd) and drive for 4.7 miles. At this point the paved road end and turns into a dirt road. Continue on the same dirt road up the mountain for 3.4 miles.

For the last mile or so, the dirt road becomes very narrow as it travels through a dense Aspen grove. Also, there are several very high berms which can high center a low clearance vehicle and the dirt on this last section turns to thick mud when it gets wet, so be aware of the weather.  

Just when you think the road can’t get any narrower and it becomes pretty spooky – you reach the top of the road and you are rewarded with the stunning view from the Capital Peak Overlook.

You can get a great image directly from the parking or travel down the trail to the east for about 100-200 yds. On the trail east there are 2 0r 3 opening to photograph from. 

Best Time of Day to Shoot

The best time to shoot this location is late afternoon, sunset or dusk.

Best Time of Year to Shoot

This location is one of the most stunning vistas in Colorado and is breathtaking year around. However, to catch the special place in all its glory - the very best time to shoot here is in the fall.

The above shot was taken on September 26th

What Lens(es) Do You Need

There are dozens of compositions at this location – so I would bring lenses that range from 24mm to 135mm. This shot was taken with a 70mm lens.


There are no permits required in the area.

Direction of the Shot

The shot is almost due south at @ 180°

Special Nuances of Shot

As mentioned, this is a beautiful vista but you have to get real lucky to capture an epic image here. You need: the right time of year, the right light, snow on the mountains, clouds, and for the sun not to be blocked by clouds at sunset.

If you are here in the fall, you may need to visit several times to make sure the Aspens on the left side of the mountain are just right. The grove changes colors at different time compared to the surrounding areas and getting it just right can be a challenge.

Special Equipment Needed

No need for any special photography equipment (other than a tripod) unless you plan on doing a panoramic shot.

Number of Other Photographers to Expect

Yes, this spot is stunning - but it is not easy to get to so you will usually see more climers and hikers than photographers here.


Current Weather

The weather in Colorado is normally mild in the summer, cold (lows in the 20’s) in the spring and fall. This location is just over 9,200 ft. elevation – so the temperatures are colder than most locations around this area.

Cell Service

I have Verizon and there is no cell service from this location.

Overnight Lodging/Camping

The closest towns to here are Basalt, Aspen and Carbondale and there is an abundance of lodging, but little to no camping areas. However, you can camp right on location at the Capital Peak overlook parking area.

Camping - click on the campground below for directions

Carbondale / Crystal River KOA – (9 miles south of Carbondale)

Redstone Campground - (22 miles south of Carbondale)

Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review

Comfort Inn & Suites Carbondale
920 Cowen Dr, Carbondale
Days Inn Carbondale
950 Cowen Dr, Carbondale

Limelight Hotel
355 S Monarch St, Aspen, CO

Hotel Aspen
110 W Main St. Aspen, CO

Nearby Restaurants

The closest towns to here are Basalt, Aspen and Carbondale and there plenty for great choices to enjoy a good meal and refreshment.

Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review

The Goat Kitchen & Bar
995 Cowen Dr, Carbondale

Village Smithy Restaurant
26 S 3rd St, Carbondale

Justice Snow's Restaurant & Bar
328 E Hyman Ave, Aspen

New York Pizza
409 E Hyman Ave, Aspen

Laundry Mat

I don’t know of any laundry mats in Basalt, but there is one in both Carbondale and Aspen.

In Carbondale - Sopris Laundry, 906 CO-133

In Aspen - Aspen Laundry at 465 North Mill St

Other Photography Opportunities Around

Click on an image below to move to that location

Airport Options

The closest airports are Aspen–Pitkin County Airport/ (ASE), Montrose (MTJ), Grand Junction (GJT) and Denver (DEN).  Aspen, Montrose and Grand Junction are nice regional that services: American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines.

Area Guides and Workshops


Other Resources

The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location. 

Visit Aspen, CO

Basalt, CO - Official Website