Pyramid Peak (14,018 ft)
14er Peak Rank #47/53
Pyramid Peak – featured on Colorado 14ers Map 10 of 16 – is a neighbor or the popular Maroon Bells in the Elk Mountains and, despite only qualifying as a 14er by 18 feet, just as challenging. Though one of the lesser hiked/climbed 14ers in the state (Colorado Fourteeners Initiative estimated less than 1000 hiker use days in 2015), it is accessed by one of the most popular and busy areas of Colorado’s hiking areas around Maroon and Crater Lakes.
Named “Black Pyramid Peak” by the Hayden Survey in 1874 due to the distinct pyramid-shaped summit cone, the name was later changed to just Pyramid Peak. For those who ski the Aspen Highlands resort nearby, the beautiful view of Pyramid Peak should look familiar from that perspective:
As with the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak suffers from the same ‘rotten’ rock (i.e. loose and unconsolidated) problems and can be dangerous for the same reasons as discussed in the Maroon Bells blog entry. It is especially important to climb with care in these conditions to avoid kicking rocks onto climbers below, to wear a helmet and beware of falling rocks.
Most climbers of Pyramid Peak will begin at the popular Maroon Lake Trailhead at the edge of the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness. A short and unchallenging 1.5 mile hike along the Maroon Snowmass Trail #1975 from this trailhead (9,600′ elevation) will bring you to the turn-off to the Pyramid Peak route about 0.3 miles shy of Crater Lake.
The route begins by heading southeast towards the lower slopes of Pyramid where a series of switchbacks puts you out of the trees and into the ‘amphitheater’ after about a mile of hiking. After about a half mile of hiking up the amphitheater on loose scree, the route turns left/east up towards the ridge below the summit of Pyramid where it cuts back along the ridge towards the Class 4 (hard scrambling/simple climbing) finish to the summit after a mile. The one-way distance from the Maroon Lake Trailhead is 3.9 miles with an elevation gain of about 4,420′.
Though there are no other common routes to access Pyramid Peak, many adventurous climbers will tackle the traverse south to the centennial peak Thunder Pyramid (13,932′). As some of the more challenging peaks in Colorado, these Elk Mountains peaks should be saved for somewhat more experienced climbers – and the same precautions for all high alpine environments must be taken: respect your physical limits, stay hydrated, watch the weather closely and don’t forget your 14ers maps and compass. Pyramid Peak is one of the five fourteeners featured on Outdoor Trail Maps Colorado 14ers Map 10 of 16.
Directions to Trailhead:
From Aspen, take Colorado Hwy 82 about a 0.5 mile west to the large traffic circle and take the exit south from it onto Maroon Lake Road. Follow Maroon Lake Road for 9.5 miles to the parking lot/trailhead. In the Summer, this lot may be accessible via shuttle bus only from the Highland Ski Area Parking Lot or Rubey Park.