Ranchers bring their cattle into the national forest for open range grazing. Beware you may encounter natural wildlife and/or cattle. Be mindful that manure may be present on the trail. There are multiple options for crossing Capitol Creek ~3 miles in. Well maintained singletrack for the most part. Be bear aware.
From the Capitol Creek parking lot there are 2 trailheads with trails that eventually merge into one trail ~3 miles into the National Forest. Even from the trailhead parking, the view of Capitol Peak
is stunning. The mountain sits atop the Capitol Creek drainage. With it's craggy sides and long access trail, Capitol Peak
has a reputation as being one of the hardest summits to achieve amongst Colorado's 14,000+' peaks.
Follow the Capitol Ditch Trail (#1963)
which is one of the access points to climb Capitol peak and therefore sees considerable traffic, particularly on nice weekends in the Summer. This trail is also quite popular with horseback riders.
The trail initially contours along a high point looking down ~600' onto Capitol Creek on the left. After about 1 mile you cross the Maroon Bells
-Snowmass wilderness boundary. There are a couple of open meadows punctuated by increasingly dramatic views of Capitol Peak
and back toward the Roaring Fork Valley before you reach your crossing point of Capitol Creek.
Choose your own adventure for this crossing (expect higher water with spring runoff) and join the Capitol Creek Trail (#1961)
on the other side. The trail continues through the forest and through a gate (close the gate after yourself) for about 2 more miles before a small creek crossing over a log bridge. The last mile or so is a steady ascent up to the meadows beneath Capitol and Mt. Daly and finally to Capitol Lake. There are tent camping sites designated in the fir trees up on the hill to your north, right while running in toward the lake.
There are many other runs and a couple of peaks that can be enjoyed from this point. You can also reverse course and enjoy a classic ~13 mile run. Have a ton of fun!
In the summer (usually late July - early September), wildflowers are abundant. You'll likely see cattle and perhaps mountain goats near Capitol lake. Deer, elk and moose also can be found in the area.