Aspen to Crested Butte, Maroon Snowmass Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Aspen to Crested Butte - 10.45 miles

Maroon Snowmass Trailhead

View down West Maroon Creek from West Maroon Pass

View down West Maroon Creek from West Maroon Pass

Round-Trip Length: 10.45 miles (one way thru-hike distance)
Start-End Elevation: 9,580' - 10,448' (12,465' max elevation on West Maroon Pass)
Elevation Change: +868' net elevation change (+3,322' total one-way elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Aspen to Crested Butte - 10.45 Miles Round-Trip

The West Maroon Creek Trail joins the West Maroon Pass Trail on a 10.45 mile thru-hike from Aspen to Crested Butte. This feature-filled route is highlighted by Maroon Lake, Crater Lake, West Maroon Pass and one of the finest wildflower displays in Colorado.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The east-west hike begins at Maroon Lake (9,580') outside Aspen and climbs 2885' to West Maroon Pass (12,465'), then drops through high alpine meadows and moderates above East Fork Crystal River to East Fork of West Maroon Trailhead on the Crested Butte side.

Thru (one-way) hikers will need to arrange a ride from the TH, or walk an additional 8+ miles into town from this point. See below for shuttle and transportation details to each trailhead.

This is a very busy trail corridor with access to all points on the 4 Pass Loop, Snowmass Lake, Willow Lake, Hasley Basin and climbing routes to Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. Expect heavy traffic in both directions, especially on summer weekends. Get an early start to experience lighter crowds and avoid storms while coming over the pass.

Much of the trail is exposed, even when below treeline. Anticipate variable weather conditions throughout the day, and as you gain and lose elevation:

The trail begins on the north side of Maroon Lake before rising away into thick aspens that break across an open rock field to the West Maroon Creek - Maroon Snowmass Trail split (1.7 miles : 10,110’). Bear left for Crater Lake and West Maroon Creek.

The trail levels around Crater Lake with access to 11 designated campsites. It bends S-SW above the inlet and undulates over rockslides at the base of Maroon Bells. It moves quickly up valley and crosses east over West Maroon Creek, where water can be swift (3.65 miles : 10,515’).

The trail rises steadily through patchy forest and crosses back to the west side through tall mats of willow (4.5 miles : 10,905'). Travel steepens in short intervals through 5.45 miles (11,525’) and the last of treeline into broad meadows below the pass.

It climbs 940’ in the last mile on a ramp-like trail to West Maroon Pass (6.45 miles : 12,465’). The pass spans a small notch in the SW corner of the headwall with great views down West Maroon Creek and the East Fork drainage on the Crested Butte side.

The trail drops from West Maroon Pass on steep switchbacks to the Frigid Air Pass split at the top of the East Fork drainage (7.25 miles : 11,735’).

The West Maroon Pass Trail splits left, bends W-SW and moderates through high alpine meadows to the north side of the valley. These sunny south-facing slopes support one of the most prolific wildflower displays in Colorado, which continues virtually uninterrupted for the next 3 miles.

You'll pass an unmarked split at 8.45 miles (11,155') which breaks north for Hasley Basin, a compelling diversion that scales a pass and drops into the North Fork drainage to join the 4 Pass Loop.

Travel eases on a steady descent (save one steep rise from 9 - 9.5 miles) through the open valley until the forest re-constitutes at the Wilderness Boundary (10.12 miles : 10,590'). It drops in short intervals to the East Fork of West Maroon Trailhead in Schofield Park (10.45 miles : 10,448').

Crested Butte to Aspen Return Hike

The hike from Crested Butte to Aspen is slightly easier because there's less elevation gain (it starts higher on the CB side) and follows a relatively smooth path all the way up to the pass. The descent to Maroon Lake is particularly rocky with several stream crossings and potential for deep mud in places.

The trail runs 4.0 miles and 2017' up to the pass, and 6.45 miles down to Maroon Lake. Total elevation gain is approximately 2460' in this direction.

Crested Butte Shuttle Service | www.crestedbutteshuttle.com

  • Dolly's Mountain Shuttle provides reliable service between Crested Butte, Aspen and the East Fork of West Maroon Trailhead. Call ahead to discuss your itinerary - they're very accommodating and will help with logistics.
  • Office: 970.349.2620 | Driver's cell: 970.209.9757
  • Rates are subject to change, and may vary by season and capacity
  • East Fork of West Maroon Trailhead to Crested Butte ($15 person or dog, each way) | minimum shuttle capacity applies and may affect minimum individual rate
  • Crested Butte to Aspen (one-way): $60 per person - $360 minimum (summer) | $600 (winter)

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 05.911 W106 56.452 — 0.0 miles : Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead
  • N39 05.886 W106 56.761 — .3 miles : Split for Maroon Lake Scenic Loop
  • N39 05.576 W106 57.373 — 1.0 miles : Rise up north side of West Maroon Creek
  • N39 05.327 W106 57.962 — 1.7 miles : W. Maroon-Maroon Snowmass Trail split
  • N39 05.145 W106 58.135 — 2.0 miles : Campsite access on west end of Crater Lake
  • N39 04.836 W106 58.283 — 2.5 miles : Campsite access on west end of Crater Lake
  • N39 04.460 W106 58.306 — 3.0 miles : Undulating travel at base of rockslidea
  • N39 03.916 W106 58.296 — 3.65 miles : Cross creek to east side of valley
  • N39 03.338 W106 58.568 — 4.45 miles : Cross creek to west side of valley
  • N39 03.017 W106 58.787 — 5.0 miles : Steady climb through treeline
  • N39 02.723 W106 59.119 — 5.5 miles : Steepens into alpine meadows and willow
  • N39 02.390 W106 59.417 — 6.0 miles : Steep climb on ramp-like trail to pass
  • N39 02.156 W106 59.836 — 6.45 miles : West Maroon Pass (12,465')
  • N39 02.297 W107 00.526 — 7.25 miles : Split to Frigid Air Pass (11,735')
  • N39 02.474 W107 00.664 — 7.5 miles : Level in high meadows atop valley
  • N39 02.555 W107 01.144 — 8.0 miles : Gradually bend W-SW
  • N39 02.535 W107 01.319 — 8.2 miles : Steady SW descent across open slopes
  • N39 02.376 W107 01.451 — 8.45 miles : Unmarked split for Hasley Basin (11,155')
  • N39 01.998 W107 01.824 — 9.0 miles : Begin mild-mod rise up north valley wall
  • N39 01.759 W107 02.239 — 9.5 miles : Resume steady descent into lower valley
  • N39 01.545 W107 02.762 — 10.12 miles : MB-SM Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 01.480 W107 03.028 — 10.45 miles : East Fork of West Maroon Trailhead (Crested Butte)

Worth Noting

  • Day Use and Overnight Parking lots at Maroon Lake fill very quickly, especially on summer weekends. Get an early start to find a spot and avoid additional foot travel or having to take the shuttle.
  • Much of the trail is exposed, even when below treeline. Anticipate variable weather conditions throughout the day, and as you gain and lose elevation.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.
  • There's no fee for this permit, however there's a $10 fee to access the Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead by car.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).

  • Bear Canisters are now required for overnight backcountry stays in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
  • Camping is not permitted in the alpine meadows (above treeline) leading to West Maroon Pass (either side). Use designated or previously established sites that meet stated criteria at and below treeline on this route.
  • Campfires are not permitted at Crater Lake.
  • 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. Additional location-specific restrictions may also apply.
  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) or Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Maroon Lake, Crater Lake and along West Maroon Creek and the East Fork Crystal River with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Crater Lake.
  • Bear canisters are now required in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness for overnight stays in the backcountry.

Directions to Trailhead

The Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead is located 9.2 miles west of Highway 82 on Maroon Creek Road. The designated overnight parking lot is located 8.9 miles from the turnoff, just before the day-use parking area.

From Highway 82 in Aspen, follow the roundabout 1 mile NW of town onto Maroon Creek Road. Follow Maroon Creek Road to all designated parking lots. Call 970.925.3445 with specific questions about seasonal road access and shuttle schedules:

  • There's a $10 fee to access the Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead by car. The Welcome Station is located 4.7 miles up Maroon Creek Road. Use the self-pay station just past the Welcome Station if no attendant is on duty.
  • Access by car is limited in the summer from 7am - 9am, and 5pm - 7pm. Visitors from 9am - 5pm must park at Aspen Highlands Village Parking Lot and take the Shuttle Bus to the trailhead. This parking area is located 1.4 miles up Maroon Creek Road and is well-marked.
  • Road access restrictions do not apply to overnight backpackers. Backpackers must pay the fee, but can proceed to the overnight parking lot and bypass the shuttle.
  • There's a $6 fee to take the shuttle from Aspen Highlands Village ($3 on select weekdays). The shuttle operates everyday from mid-June to Labor Day.
  • After Labor Day, the road is open to all cars Mon-Thurs; restrictions only apply Friday-Sunday. The shuttle runs Friday-Sunday as described above.
  • Cars with infants (children under 2) and handicap plates are exempt from road restrictions, year round. The $10 access fee still applies.

Contact Information

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611
970.925.3445

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623
970.963.2266

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"This trail is truly amazing! We found it to be somewhat difficult to find good information on the logistics of the hike so just wrote a trip guide here: https://www.tmbtent.com/guide-hiking-aspen-crested-butte/ Hope this is helpful for folks!"
Ian  -   -  Date Posted: August 8, 2017
"Last minute plans left us with limited information so just went by this description. You said to stay left for crater lake but the sign said stay right so we followed the sign. We hiked in late so stayed near Crater Lake, then hiked the next day to Crested Butte. It rained all night and our stuff was all pretty wet - didn't realize how moist of an environment it was there! The mud was deep -over my ankles in some areas and the river crossings were rough but doable. The flowers on the other side of the pass were so amazing! I agree this trail description is a bit confusing. We did not realize it would be better to return the way we came staying over night near trail end or that the shuttle bus was 8 miles more into Crested Butte, and that the shuttle reservation is a must this time of year or your walking that 8-9 additional miles into Crested Butte or staying near the trail end. Dollys was full but managed to squeezed us in 2 at a time (there were 4 of us). Also there was an avalanche the required us to take two different shuttle busses and walk over the snow - not a huge deal, and Dolly's was great. After getting into Crested Butte asked Dollys to take us to our car in Aspen, but didn't realize the trip time from Crested Butte to Aspen was 3 hrs by car with no direct route! so we either have to take a shuttle back up and go the way we came back over the pass by foot or ride 3 hrs and spend $360 to get back to our car. Have learned a ton the hard way- better planning and more research next time! "
Denise Kander  -  West Maroon Trail from Aspen to Crestted Butte  -  Date Posted: July 30, 2017

 

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