Hope Pass, Willis Gulch Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Hope Pass - 9.0 miles

Willis Gulch Trailhead

Looking south from Hope Pass (12,508') into the Collegiate Peaks

Looking south from Hope Pass (12,508') into the Collegiate Peaks

Round-Trip Length: 9.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,305' - 12,508' (12,508' max elevation on pass)
Elevation Change: +3,203' net elevation gain (+3,352' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Hope Pass - 9.0 Miles Round-Trip

Hope Pass (12,508') is located 4.5 miles from Willis Gulch Trailhead in the San Isabel National Forest. This short but steep route begins off Highway 82 and joins the Continental Divide Trail up Little Willis Gulch to a saddle between Quail Mountain (13,461') and Mount Hope (13,933').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Views extend from Twin Lakes into the Collegiate Peaks, and both Quail Mountain and Mount Hope are challenging but fairly straight-forward walk-ups (Hope is decidedly more difficult).

The CDT continues south from Hope Pass down Sheep Gulch to County Road #390. Visitors will enjoy diverse forests, cascading creeks and big alpine landscapes on the way to Hope Pass:

From the parking lot, cross the bridge over Lake Creek and head straight on a path through tall brush. Ignore social trails that branch off along the creek.

Follow signs for Big and Little Willis Gulch #1471 that lead over beaver ponds to the Upper Twin Lake split (.37 miles : 9,435'). Here grades steepen through young aspen on a long SE arc into the gulch (1.0 miles : 9,835').

Travel moderates to a bridge (1.35 miles : 9,893') where it joins the CDT and steepens considerably in a tall, mixed forest beside the creek. There are many cascades on this stretch, though you'll have to work to see the most kinetic ones.

The trail climbs 385' from the bridge to the Little Willis - Big Willis Gulch Trail split (1.8 miles : 10,278'); bear left up Little Willis and resume steep climbing that gradually eases in a wide, flat piece of forest above the gulch (2.5 - 3.0 miles : 10,910' - 11,200').

It steepens back in a high, patchy forest before emerging through treeline in a postcard-like basin in the upper valley (3.65 miles : 11,722').

Travel moderates across alpine meadows with a great look at Mount Hope and a scenic tarn across the valley. The trail takes a winding but efficient route up the west flank of Quail Mountain to Hope Pass (4.5 miles : 12,508').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 03.780 W106 24.256 — 0.0 miles : Willis Gulch Trailhead
  • N39 03.774 W106 24.014 — .37 miles : Upper Twin Lake Trail split
  • N39 03.738 W106 23.864 — .5 miles : Steep climb into aspen forest
  • N39 03.523 W106 23.592 — 1.0 miles : Level arc into Willis Gulch
  • N39 03.351 W106 23.328 — 1.35 miles : Bridge over Willis Creek
  • N39 03.203 W106 23.338 — 1.5 miles : Steep climb up east side of Willis Creek
  • N39 02.977 W106 23.417 — 1.8 miles : Big Willis Gulch - Little Willis Gulch split
  • N39 02.805 W106 23.371 — 2.0 miles : Steep climb in tall forest
  • N39 02.480 W106 23.520 — 2.5 miles : Travel moderates into wide, flat stretch of forest
  • N39 02.179 W106 23.808 — 3.0 miles : Grade moderates into patchy subalpine forest
  • N39 01.690 W106 24.062 — 3.65 miles : Clear treeline into big alpine basin
  • N39 01.424 W106 24.253 — 4.0 miles : Steady rise up side of Quail Mountain
  • N39 01.296 W106 24.305 — 4.3 miles : Steep switchbacks on final approach
  • N39 01.194 W106 24.307 — 4.5 miles : Hope Pass (12,508')

Worth Noting

  • The high narrow walls of Little Willis Gulch may compromise GPS signal, which can cause small distance discrepancies between your GPS device and measurements listed here.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the San Isabel National Forest. No permits or fees are required.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals (or 25 total with people + stock).

  • Campfires are permitted in the San Isabel National Forest. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream. Location and seasonal-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Leadville Ranger District (719.486.0749) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.
  • Nearby campgrounds include Twin Peaks, Parry Peak, White Star, Lakeview and Dexter.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in Big Willis Gulch, Little Willis Gulch, Willis Lake and Lake Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license. Contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife or the Leadville Ranger Station (719.486.0749) to learn more about rules and restrictions related to Greenback Cutthroat Trout.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be under voice and sight control in the San Isabel National Forest.
  • Bikes are permitted on the Continental Divide Trail. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on this trail.

Directions to Trailhead

Willis Gulch Trailhead is located on Highway 82, 8.3 miles west of the traffic light at 6th St. and Harrison Avenue in Twin Lakes, and 15 miles east of Independence Pass (or 34.1 total miles east of Original Street in downtown Aspen).

The trailhead is between Mile Marker #76 - #77, just east of the Parry Peak Campground.

Anticipate the turnoff as it comes up rather quickly. Pull into the lot and follow the short dirt road to the trailhead at the bridge over Lake Creek.

Contact Information

Leadville Ranger District
810 Front Street
Leadville, CO 80461
719.486.0749

Pike and San Isabel National Forest
2840 Kachina Drive
Pueblo, CO 81008
719.553.1400

Trip Reports

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