Backpack to Snowmass Creek in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Aspen, Colorado

Details

Distance

13 miles

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Haley Baker

Don't have enough time to complete the Four Pass Loop but still want to spend a weekend in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness? Numerous established campsites and opportunities for dispersed camping lets you get out there without committing to at least a 3 day trek.

For beginner backpackers or just those who can't take off 3-4 days to do the Four Pass Loop, there's still options near the iconic Maroon Bells. 

If you are planning to do an overnight at the Bells, you need to get there early or late - before 7:30 am or after 5 pm. The overnight lot fills quickly in the mornings, and doesn't start emptying until the afternoons. Just be sure to tell the ranger at the station you are there for an overnight so that you get a pass! Also, be aware that parking at the overflow lot will add 0.75 miles to your hike one way, and the regular overnight lot 0.5 miles. 

Day 1: 6.5 miles

The trail begins along the shores of Maroon Lake, heading up towards Crater Lake. You'll begin by winding your way through an aspen grove (especially stunning in the fall), with some openings that let you look back on Maroon Lake. Be sure to pick up your permit (for free!) at the entrance into the Wilderness. There's a box with permits and writing utensils in it, fill yours out, attach it to your pack, and keep heading upwards! It's only 1.4 miles to Crater Lake, and the trail levels out a lot once you reach it. 

Follow West Maroon Trail No. 1970 around Crater Lake and up to a few talus fields. After another 2.5 miles or so, you'll reach a creek crossing. Use this as a spot to take a break and eat some lunch before braving the freezing water. After the crossing, you'll start seeing established campsites. The best one that I came across was another 2 miles along the trail, marked with a sign. Follow the social trail up the rocks to at least 5 sites and spectacular views of the mountains.

Day 2: 6.5 miles

Before packing up camp in the morning, you can bring some water and snacks in a day pack and finish the rest of the hike up to West Maroon Pass. Come back down, have a snack, and make your way back down to the parking lots and the crowds. 

(Note: You can easily turn this into a longer trip by staying at a Crater Lake site on your way out, just be sure to know what sites are open/closed due to bear activity!)

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