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 (3 out of 5)
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 Marron 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!!
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
9,253 Ft. Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click on image to enlarge
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 4.6 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.
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.
I have Verizon and there is no cell service from this location.
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
355 S Monarch St, Aspen, CO
373 Palomino Trail, Ridgway, CO
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
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
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
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.