Snowmass Village owes its dramatic alpine backdrop to Mt. Daly, the peak that takes center stage in most views and photos of the town of Snowmass. While Snowmass is surrounded by 14ers like Snowmass Mountain (often mistaken for Snowmass Peak, which is actually part of another 13er called Hagerman Peak) and Capitol Peak, Mt. Daly rises to 13,300 feet, just 700 feet shy of the fame and glory of 14er distinction. While Daly’s elevation keeps it under the radar, its aesthetic is far from discreet.
The peak’s southwest face features a large diagonal stripe of lighter rock visible even from Highway 82 that scientists call a geologic dike—basically, a sheet of rock formed in a fracture of an older body of rock. When magma flowed into a large fissure on Mt. Daly, it left behind an intrusion of igneous rock. The mountain’s two narrow ridges, or arêtes, were formed when two glaciers diverged from the same point.
Named after a National Geographic Society president, Augustus Daly, Mt. Daly doesn’t see near the traffic that it’s next door neighbor Capitol Peak draws. While it’s a long haul from the Capitol Lake Trailhead—almost 14.5 miles and just over 4,000 feet of climbing—climbing Mt. Daly is a day is common for experienced and fit peak baggers. An overnight stay at Capitol Lake, situated at the base of both Daly and Capitol, offers more time to enjoy one of the area’s most scenic camp spots. Your camp neighbors will most likely be summiting Capitol in the morning or just enjoying a day at the lake, leaving Daly in its usual state—empty. From the saddle between Daly and Capitol, it’s a rock scramble along a ridge to the summit, which climbers have said holds offers views of every 14er in the Elk Range and a superlative view of stunning Capitol Peak.