North Maroon Peak Route Guide | An Alluring & Deadly 14er
While the Maroon Bells are considered some of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado, they’re also among the most difficult and deadly. The loose mud rock that gives them a vivid color also leads to rockslides and dangerous climbing conditions. North Maroon Peak is the more difficult of the two peaks with class 4 climbing, exposure and serious route-finding involved with reaching the summit. Do not attempt this climb without proper experience and a partner. If you’re ready to start planning, use my North Maroon Peak route guide below.
North Maroon Peak Route Guide Facts
North Maroon Peak Route Guide - Northeast Ridge
Getting to this fourteener can be a logistical challenge, as you will need a reservation to shuttle in. Click here for more info on reaching the Maroon Leak trailhead using the shuttle system, which drops you off at the trailhead. This is where my North Maroon Peak route guide begins.
Leave the Maroon Lake parking, walk past the lake and continue on the Crater Lake trail. Hike around 1.75 miles to reach a signed trail junction. Turn right onto the Maroon-Snowmass trail. Hike just over 3/4 mile through the forest to another trail junction. This is the turn for North Maroon Peak. Turn left at the junction and hike down to the creek in Minnehaha Gulch.
Cross this stream and hike through the bushes to reach a talus field. Follow the trail up through talus, turn left and continue south under cliff bands. From 11,200 feet to 11,400 feet, scramble up more talus and turn left into an open, grassy area. Keep hiking to reach the rock glacier below North Maroon’s North Face.
Follow what cairns and trail segments you can identify onto the rock glacier and cross it, aiming for a break in the cliffs on the opposite side. Keeping looking for cairns, you should not gain or lose elevation here. Once you’ve crossed, identify a trail and follow it around a corner. Shortly past the corner, turn right and climb 200 feet of steep terrain below some cliffs.
Above 11,900 feet, take a left to hike to a corner where you get your first look at the next portion of the route. You will take a broad gully that climbs west toward the northeast ridge. I will refer to this broad gully as the “1ST GULLY” as there is a second gully to be climbed higher up on the route.
Follow the trail south into the first gully. Turn right at the bottom to begin climbing the left side. You’ll climb 600 feet in this gully before leaving on the left side, below a towering rock formation. While it begins as class 2 hiking, it will become more difficult as you go, eventually requiring careful route-finding to pass through breaks in some cliff bands.
Well below the large rock formation, follow the trail left and exit the gully near 12,700 feet. Turn around another corner and traverse across rocky ledges to reach the entrance to the “2nd GULLY” near 12,600 feet.
From there, the route gets more complex and difficult. If you are finding it difficult, you may with to turn back here. This second gully is much steeper than the 1st and has plenty of loose rock, especially at the top. If the weather is getting bad, turn around and try again another day.
Follow a narrow trail along ledges and cross the center of the gully to begin climbing steep, grassy terrain. After 12,900 feet, the second gully gets steeper with even more loosse rock. Carefully follow the faint trail along the left side of the gully. Continue toward a large notch in the ridge above you. Take a left and carefully climb ledges to gain the ridge crest, near 13,200 feet.
You still have plenty of climbing left to go, with more than 800 feet to reach the summit. Climb up a short bit up the ridge and the crux of the route will come into view – a rock band at 13,600 feet. There’s a Class 3 route around the rock band. Hike to the right and ascend somewhat easier terrain. However, most climbers pick a line up the rock band directly, using a short, Class 4 chimney.
Walk up to the pitch and carefully begin climbing. At the top of the crux, turn right and follow easier terrain around cliffs before turning left to climb back toward the ridge crest. Climb onto a precipice where you can see the remaining 300 feet left to reach the summit. Leave this rocky precipice and climb along the left side of the ridge on loose rock. Pass through more ledges and ascend the final 150 feet of loose rock to reach the summit.
At the summit enjoy your accomplishment and the views from one of Colorado’s most dangerous summits. Be sure you descend with plenty of time to reach tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard.
You may wish to review additional route info and photos for this route here on 14ers.com. I hope you found my North Maroon Peak route guide helpful and informative for planning your climb. Safe travels on the trail!
Let my topographical map of the North Maroon Peak Route guide you along your way. It’s perfect for your trip. Download it on your phone and print out a paper copy so that you have a spare just in case anything goes wrong. Click on the map below to view it larger.
Besides checking out this North Maroon Peak route guide, you should research the weather conditions for your climb from multiple websites, so you can pack and prepare properly. Here are two dependable options to start with.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe. Good Luck!
- Research your route using my North Maroon Peak route guide and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my North Maroon Peak route guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.