It’s a loop that we hadn’t done before– Capitol Creek to Avalanche Creek to Hell Roaring Creek. Though friends say it’s longer, we figured it to be about 26 miles, with 7300 feet of vertical gain.
Christy, Adam Mosczynski, and I started the trip in the clockwise direction and found most of it, apart from the climb up Hell Roaring, to be runnable. You could go in reverse, but I think the layout of the hills would probably result in more hiking and an overall slower time.
As it was, in the direction we went, the start of the loop followed the easy-to-run Capitol Ditch Trail to the lake. It gets steeper on climb to Capitol Pass, but after that short bit, you have about ten miles of cruisey descent down Avalanche Creek, to the turn off at Hell Roaring. I’d say it’s really enjoyable to that point.
The 4,000 foot climb up Hell Roaring– named as such because it’s so steep the water comes crashing down the valley (particularly in spring) at a full roar– on semi-tired legs is hard, to say the least. We hiked the trail, with endless Ute Trail-like switchbacks for two full hours before gaining the Sopris/Capitol Ridge at 12,100 feet. From there, a short traverse on the ridge led to an equally steep descent for about an hour to the car at the Capitol Creek trailhead. Done.
Definitely check this one out, but plan on it taking at least a little longer than you’d think.