Conundrum Hot Springs, Conundrum Creek Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Conundrum Hot Springs - 17.0 miles
Conundrum Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||17.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,765' - 11,222' (11,222' max elevation @ the hot springs)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,457' net elevation gain (+3,025' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Conundrum Hot Springs - 17.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Conundrum Hot Springs are located 8.5 miles from Conundrum Creek Trailhead off Castle Creek Road in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The hot spring complex contains two main pools and four smaller springs with a combined approximate discharge of 130 GPM, and max avg. temperature of ~100 degrees F (each pool varies).
The 8.5 mile distance would usually command a 'difficult' rating, however most consider the trail quite moderate. Strong hikers can easily achieve the roundtrip in a day with an early start.
While the springs are the main attraction, the hike in is equally compelling. The Conundrum Creek Trail runs through long stretches of level meadows, aspen forests and wide valley openings to the springs.
Conundrum draws thousands each summer, most who camp in the immediate vicinity. Expect crowds and minimal privacy during peak months, especially weekends and holidays. The springs also serve as a first stop on longer routes to Crested Butte, Copper Basin and East Maroon Pass.
Important Camping Update: Conundrum Hot Springs will be transitioning to a permit-only system in 2018. All overnight users will be required to purchase and carry a permit when camping between Silver Dollar Pond and Triangle Pass.
Permits are available at recreation.gov.
See Camping, Rules & Regs and Worth Noting below for additional information on designated sites, bear canisters, fire restrictions, dog restrictions and travel tips:
The trail dips and rises across a broad meadow that funnels into conifer and aspen along the creek (1.0 miles : 8,970'). It emerges in a small meadow at 1.75 miles, then the first of several major meadows at 1.85 miles (9,240').
Travel is quick to a bridge leading to the west side of the creek (2.75 miles : 9,390'). The bridge is elevated and narrow - consider crossing in the water if slick or carrying a heavy pack. Mild grades continue across a second large meadow at 3.85 miles (9,550'), past which it steepens on rugged terrain above a deep gorge in the valley (4.5 miles).
Note young aspen and fireweed on these steeper slopes, which indicate a recent disturbance that renewed the natural forest cycle.
The trail enters a third major meadow at 4.8 miles that stretches (with brief interruption) to a bridge leading east to the Silver Ponds (6.0 miles : 10,240'). Dogs are not permitted beyond this point.
The trail skirts marshy ponds to a marked creek ford back to the west side (6.55 miles : 10,320'). The ford can be voluminous at peak runoff, but is generally safe and easy. The trail opens across a talus field with your first clear view of the upper valley (7.2 miles : 10,455').
It steepens away in a cluttered forest to a sign on the hot springs perimeter (8.15 miles : 10,965').
Camping is only permitted in designated sites beyond this point, and fires are not permitted. There are several campsites just before this sign along the creek where fires are still permitted.
The trail hops a creek braid and opens past spurs for designated sites to the split for Triangle Pass. The Conundrum Hot Springs are located across the creek about 100 yards away (8.5 miles : 11,222'). There's one large pool and one small pool in the main area where most people congregate. Clothing is optional, and expect a lively crowd.
The springs are at treeline in a valley topped by Cathedral Peak (13,943'), Conundrum Peak (14,022') and Castle Peak (14,265'), which share a similar geologic make-up and appearance to Maroon Bells. The Conundrum Creek Trail continues 2 miles and 1700' up to Triangle Pass.
- N39 07.148 W106 51.366 — 0.0 miles : Conundrum Creek Trailhead
- N39 06.733 W106 51.497 — .5 miles : Dip and rise through open space in lower valley
- N39 06.349 W106 51.575 — 1.0 miles : Intervals of conifer and aspen along creek
- N39 05.970 W106 51.698 — 1.5 miles : Rolling travel into small meadow
- N39 05.717 W106 51.850 — 1.85 miles : Large meadow ringed by aspen
- N39 05.224 W106 52.043 — 2.5 miles : Fast travel through mixed forest and glades
- N39 05.050 W106 52.148 — 2.75 miles : Cross bridge to west side of creek
- N39 04.547 W106 52.487 — 3.5 miles : Rise into large meadow
- N39 04.023 W106 52.838 — 4.25 miles : Trail steepens past meadow above gorge
- N39 03.580 W106 52.937 — 4.8 miles : Enter 2nd large meadow past creek crossing
- N39 03.004 W106 53.035 — 5.5 miles : Far end of second meadow
- N39 02.622 W106 53.056 — 6.0 miles : Dip to bridge leading to Silver Ponds
- N39 02.258 W106 53.046 — 6.55 miles : Ford Creek to west side
- N39 01.808 W106 53.127 — 7.2 miles : Valley opens across talus field
- N39 01.187 W106 53.305 — 8.0 miles : Last campsites where fires are permitted
- N39 01.011 W106 53.374 — 8.15 miles : Sign for campsites and fire restrictions
- N39 00.698 W106 53.489 — 8.5 miles : Conundrum Hot Springs
- The Conundrum Creek Trail sees heavy traffic throughout the summer, especially on weekends. Backpackers at the springs will experience little privacy, if any. Consider camping down-valley, where sites have more space between them. Campfires are permitted in sites outside of the designated camping area at the springs.
- Trailhead parking is very limited and often full. Arrive early to secure a space. Overflow parking is available on Castle Creek Road, a little over one mile away. Be mindful of private property on the trailhead access road - cars will be ticketed and/or towed.
- There are several creek crossings on this trail - expect to get wet.
- Consider post-Labor Travel for lighter crowds. Aspen and willow produce brilliant autumn colors, and thimbleberries and raspberries are particularly abundant along the first three miles.
- Help keep the Conundrum Hot Springs area clean by packing out all that you take in, and picking up trash along the way.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry Camping Permit Information for Conundrum Hot Springs and the Conundrum Creek Valley:
Overnight permits for the Conundrum Creek Valley are released according to the following schedule:
- Overnight permits for April 1 - July 31: 8a on February 15th
- Overnight permits for August 1 - November 30 are available at 8a on June 15th
- Overnight permits for December 1 - March 31 are available at 8a on October 15th
Once released, permits may be reserved online up to the day of the trip.
- The maximum length of stay from June 1-September 1 is three nights. There is a seven night maximum stay the rest of the year.
- A person is limited to two permits in a calendar year.
Backcountry Camping Information:
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).
- There are 16 designated sites in the Conundrum Hot Springs vicinity (first come, first served). The sites are clearly marked. Camping is not permitted elsewhere in this same area. If occupied, there are many sites down valley (and still very close).
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at the 16 designated sites in the Conundrum Hot Springs vicinity. Stoves only. Fire restriction lines are clearly marked and enforced.
- Bear Canisters are now required for overnight backcountry stays in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
- Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Location-specific restrictions may also apply.
- Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.
- Fishing is permitted along Conundrum Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Dogs are not permitted past the 6.0 mile bridge crossing leading to the Silver Dollar Pond area. A sign clearly marks this point.
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted in the Conundrum Hot Springs vicinity. Stoves only. Signs clearly mark where backpackers must use designated sites that have fire restrictions. Illegal fires carry a $325+ fine. See Camping and Backpacking for more details.
- This trail is regularly patrolled by the forest service. Rules - especially campsite location, food storage, dog restrictions and fire restrictions - are strictly enforced.
Directions to Trailhead
The Conundrum Creek Trailhead is located off of Castle Creek Road south of Aspen CO.
From the roundabout 1 mile NW of town, take Castle Creek Road 4.8 miles south to Conundrum Creek Road. Bear right, then keep left on the dirt road for one mile to the trailhead. The road is narrow in places - be mindful of oncoming traffic. The road is graded and suitable for 2WD cars.
If the lot is full, use overflow parking on Castle Creek Road around the Conundrum Creek Road turnoff. This adds a one mile+ walk to the trailhead. Parking is strictly prohibited on private property that lines the trailhead access road. Ticketing and towing is enforced.
Castle Creek Road is winding and narrow in places. Anticipate the turnoff, and be considerate of cyclists sharing the road.
Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611
Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670