The Citadel 13,294'

The Citadel from the Northeast.  Photo: Rob Writz

The Citadel is the most rugged peak in the Clear Creek drainage north of I-70. The mountains surrounding The Citadel are moderate hulks that hold a few steep eastern facing cirques, but nothing like this peak. The mountain’s steep north face has several classic lines, and the north ridge is the site of some of the steepest and most futuristic ski mountaineering lines in the region. When viewed from the south, The Citadel resembles Snoopy sleeping on his dog house. The peak is often called “Snoopy” as much as “The Citadel”.


Shared Approach for Northeast Chute and Northeast Bowl

The Northeast Chute and Northeast Bowl share a common approach to 12,050’. From the Herman Gulch Trailhead find the start of the trail on the north side of the parking lot. Follow the trail east for a few minutes to a fork where the Watrous Gulch Trail continues east and Herman Gulch goes west. Take the Herman Gulch trail. The trail reaches a flat terrain at 10,750’. If there is enough snow for skinning you can deviate from the trail and follow the line of the creek up the wide and flat valley. Follow the snow to a small tarn at 12,050’ below the Northeast Chute and Northeast Bowl. If you are doing this approach on a dry Herman Gulch trail, break off from the trail at approximately 11,200’ to follow the valley towards The Citadel instead of the trail to Herman Lake. 

Route 1 - Northeast Chute

  • Rating: II D8
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: Northeast
  • Vertical: 880'
  • Approach Elevations: 10,300' - 13,080'
  • Approach Distance: From Herman Gulch TH: 3.9 miles

The Northeast Chute, aka Snoopy’s Backside Chute, is the classic line of The Citadel and of the peaks north of the Loveland Ski Area. You won’t be by yourself on this route on a spring morning. There is a reason this is a classic. It is loaded with snow all winter, has a consistent pitch, usually cornice free, and starts in a great position between the two vertical summits of The Citadel. It starts off narrow and steep and then opens up for bigger turns below. Although we describe the approach of this route from Herman Gulch, be aware of other ski mountaineers who may approach this from Dry Gulch. They may be attempting to ski down when you are climbing up. From the shared approach described above, go west from the small tarn at 12,050 and then climb the Northeast Chute above you.

Route 2 - Northeast Bowl

  • Rating: II D5 - D7
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: Northeast
  • Vertical: 800'
  • Approach Elevations: 10,300' - 13,000'
  • Approach Distance: From Herman Gulch TH: 3.8 miles

The Northeast Bowl on The Citadel is a fabulous line that has many options. There is a cornice that is consistent across the rim of this bowl, and it varies in size and depth. The cornice is bigger on the skier’s right side of the bowl. There is a line next to The Citadel’s summit cliff block that has a good entry point. In addition to the cornice, the skier’s right side of the bowl also has several rocks in the path of the descent. You can easily ski around these. Follow the shared approach described above and switchback up the Northeast Bowl and then climb the line being aware of the cornice. 

The Citadel from the South.  Photo: Rob Writz

Route 3 - South Face and Snoopy's Collar

  • Rating:  II D8
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: South, Southeast
  • Vertical: 1,100'
  • Approach Elevations: 10,633' - 13,080'
  • Approach Distance: From Dry Gulch TH: 3.7 miles

Most of the ski mountaineering attention on Citadel is directed at the Northeast Chute. Many skiers climb up the South Face and Snoopy’s Collar to get to the Northeast Chute, but they are bypassing great descent options. Snoopy’s Collar (D8) faces southeast and connects the South Face to the col between The Citadel’s summits and it is steeper than the South Face below it. The South Face opens up for wider turns into a gully between the rocks.

From the gate at Dry Gulch, ski or hike up the Dry Gulch trail to the northeast. This will turn north and away from the interstate. The trail may quickly fade away. Follow the line of the creek west through the valley staying on the right side of the creek to tree line. You will exit the forest and enter another forest on this approach. Climb northwest following the line of the creek drainage to 12,000’ below Hagar Mountain and Golden Bear. This is about 3.25 miles from the trailhead. Turn north from here and cross the high basin to the South Face of Citadel. 


There are two trailheads that can be used to access The Citadel: Herman Gulch for the north side and Dry Gulch for the south side.

Herman Gulch Trailhead (10,300’)

Herman Gulch Trailhead is located on exit 218 on Interstate 70. This is west of Bakersville and east of Loveland Pass. There is a massive parking lot on the north side of the exit with an information kiosk and outhouses. The Herman Gulch trail starts near the outhouses.

Dry Gulch Trailhead (10,633’)

The Dry Gulch Trailhead is located at Exit 216 on Interstate 70. This exit is the same exit for Loveland Pass, the Loveland Ski Area, and the last exit before the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels. If you are exiting the interstate from the east the trailhead is immediately on your right. If there is a lot of snow you will park in a pull off to the right just before the off ramp goes under the interstate. If there is not snow you can continue northeast through this pull out on a dirt road to the gate at Dry Gulch. This is next to the eastbound lanes of the interstate, and there is no official Forest Service trailhead here. If you are coming from the west, exit the interstate, take a left on to Highway 6 and then an immediate left under the interstate. Look for the pull out described above on the left.


Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website