Explore Aspen's 13ers

Hike a 13er: Petroleum Peak

Bag a summit far more scenic than the oily moniker implies.

By James Dziezynski July 5, 2021 Published in the Summer/Fall 2021 issue of Aspen Sojourner

The approach to Petroleum Peak

ELEVATION | 13,505 ft
DISTANCE | 5.4 miles out-and-back
From Aspen, drive east on Highway 82 for roughly 11 miles to Lincoln Creek Road. Follow that dirt road for 9.9 miles (see vehicle note in Tabor Peak entry). The trailhead is signed, with a parking area reached by taking a right off the road and optionally crossing the creek in your vehicle—if you made it this far, that won’t be a problem. If you have a lightweight SUV, consider parking (and even camping) 6.4 miles in on Lincoln Creek Road at the Portal Campground at Grizzly Reservoir. There is an established pay campground there, as well as free dispersed camping beyond. The remaining 3.5 miles to the trailhead from the reservoir are deeply rutted and rooty. The road isn’t steep, but it’s very bouncy, so it’s slow going.

Petroleum Peak is the unofficial name of the summit above the named Petroleum Lake, both of which are far more scenic than their oily monikers imply. Fields of wildflowers—columbine, sky pilot, elephant heads, mountain bluebells, and more—are fed by crystal-clear streams from the lake, itself one of the most beautiful in Colorado.

From the parking area, a signed trail begins along an old mining road and eventually reaches Anderson Lake and the imposing Anderson Peak. The main trail is a bit tricky to follow here, as there are several offshoot routes. Thankfully, they all trend north to the same general place. The official trail continues from the west end of the lake, then turns north.

Petroleum Peak and Petroleum Lake

Either way, you’ll end up in the open meadows of Petroleum Lake. Petroleum Peak looms just behind where the trail ends. Push up its east slopes, finishing with a steep but non-exposed climb to the summit. The difficulty never exceeds Class 2, and the push is less than a half-mile from the flats around the lake. Reverse your ascent route, and enjoy the lakes one more time on the way back.

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