• Activities:

    Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    16.6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2500 Feet

Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Take in amazing views on this backpacking trip to Snowmass Lake. Expect roughly 4 hours each way.

For the adventurous backpacker looking to get backcountry in central Colorado, the stunning beauty of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness cannot be beat. While the Maroon Bells just outside of Aspen might be the most photographed mountains on North America, the beauty is definitely rivaled by Snowmass Peak, which stands prominently above Snowmass Lake. This is not to be confused with Snowmass Mountain, which is the 14er attached to Snowmass Peak via a long ridge, nor is it the same as the ski resort, but I digress.

Start the hike from the Maroon Snowmass Trailhead and continue 8.5 miles to Snowmass Lake. This journey will take you about 4 hours of steady hiking and is 8.5 miles each way, 17 miles round trip.

This hike offers a tour of the wilderness area on a well-maintained trail in the depths of a valley, through a magnificent Aspen grove, across a log-jam at Snowmass Creek, and then a steep ascent up switchbacks to finally arrive at Snowmass Lake.

While the net elevation gain is only about 1,500ft, there are many ups and downs that will have you climbing 2,500ft each way, for a 5,000ft total gain. Luckily there is great dispersed camping at the lake, just be sure to check with the local Ranger district for wilderness regulations and remember to pack out anything you brought with you.

This trip can be combined into one segment of the infamous 4-Pass Loop, or you can make it a more simple out-and-back weekend.

For more information, check out the Forest Service Guide.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Dehydrated food
  • Water Filter to refill at the lake or creek
  • Camera
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

3 stars simply because the trail disappears half way and it was almost dark and I had a panic attack. I was with my boyfriend and little sister. I was the only one panicking while the others tried to remain calm. The "trail" led us in the middle of the woods. We heard some guys talking and called for help and asked them to stay so we could get back on the trail. We just headed back because it got dark literally at 6pm. Scariest moment ever but just be careful and don't go alone. It's a beautiful scenery though.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This spot is great whether you're camping or passing through while running the 4-pass loop. There's also a small waterfall down from the outlet.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

This was the first adventure I actually went on based entirely on an Outbound post. Thanks for the great advice and inspiring photos, Matt!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Matthew Eaton Explorer

Greetings! I am an outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographer based in Denver, Colorado. Loving life since 1983. I hope you find some of my adventures below helpful and inspiring!

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

7 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves