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
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RT Distance 16.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 2500 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Lost

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.

Iconic Colorado backcountry

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.

Excellent Hike, Although Steeper than Expected

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


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

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