Run the 4-Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Rate this Adventure Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead, Aspen, Colorado, United States

  • Activities:

    Running

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    27.1 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    8000 Feet

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers

One of the most incredible running loops in North America featuring the awe-inspiring Maroon Bells, verdant alpine valleys of wildflowers, and 4 mountain passes over 12,000 ft!

Taking on the 4-pass Loop is no easy feat but completely worth the training and effort. The run starts at Maroon Lake and heads up to Crater Lake where the loop splits left or right. Counter-clockwise is the preferred direction as it allows you to tackle the harder passes first. You'll go over the 4 following passes: Buckskin @ 12,500 ft, Trail Rider @ 12,420, Frigid Air @ 12,415 ft, West Maroon - 12,500 ft. There's a fair amout of distance and elevation drop between the first 3 passes but Frigid Air to West Maroon is relatively short.

The best time to run the loop is early July to mid-September; the high passes typically don't melt out before then and the chance for heavy fall snows increases dramatically towards the end of September. With much of the trail above treeline, afternoon thunderstorms are a frequent risk, never go over a pass in one. Typical time to finish with lots of stops for photos is 8-10 hours.

Elevation profile and run map: Strava.com

This is one of the most used trails in Colorado so with that in mind please be respectful of hikers and backpackers. If you're running with a dog leashes are required, the trails are patrolled regularly from Maroon Lake to Buckskin or West Maroon Pass. With that in mind you will see off-leash dogs, just don't be that person who lets their dog run far ahead or off-trail.

For the multi-day backpacking trip, check out this adventure.

Pack List

  • Running shoes
  • Running layers
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent (optional)
  • GPS Watch
  • Running vest or pack with water bottles or bladder
  • Running food & snacks (PB&J recommended!)
  • Water purification (Steripen recommended)
  • Headlamp
  • Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Map or GPS
  • Trekking Poles (optional)
  • Running Gaiters (optional)
  • Running leash if bringing dog
  • Small digital camera or phone to take photos of the incredible scenery!
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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

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Jason Hatfield Explorer

Adventure and travel photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. I teach photography workshops and offer private guiding around the west. More at jasonjhatfield.com

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