East Maroon Pass, East Maroon Creek Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
East Maroon Pass - 19.4 miles
East Maroon Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||19.4 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,755' - 11,824' (@ East Maroon Pass)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,069' net elevation gain (+3,743' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
East Maroon Pass - 19.4 Miles Round-Trip
East Maroon Pass is located 9.7 miles from East Maroon Portal in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. This long but moderate trail follows East Maroon Creek to its origin just below the pass, and continues down the west side into Copper Basin and on to Gothic near Crested Butte.
East Maroon Pass is arguably the easiest thru-hike route to Crested Butte, though it lacks the high alpine charisma of West Maroon Pass (12,465’). Much of the trail follows an old wagon route chosen for milder grades and lower elevations. Accordingly East Maroon sees heavier horse traffic than any other stemming from Maroon Bells.
It also joins Triangle Pass (via Copper Basin) and the Conundrum Creek valley to form a compelling backpacking loop.
This is a great option if seeking solitude apart from the busy 4 Pass Loop network. Highlights include long stretches of open valley, great views of Pyramid Peak and some of the finest aspen groves and autumn colors in the area:
The trail begins on level intervals of meadow and aspen to a connector for Maroon Lake (1.3 miles : 9,070’). Here it bends SW into the East Maroon Creek drainage with views of Pyramid Peak (14,018’).
Travel is quick on level grades before rising above a riparian restoration area (2.7 miles : 9470’). Look for moose in beaver-dammed oxbows below. It drops back on a fast pace to an unmarked spur for a horse camp at 4.2 miles (9,725’).
Traces of the old road are periodically evident past cabin remains (4.9 miles) to the first of two major creek fords (5.6 miles : 9,880’).
Volume can be swift across each at peak runoff – anticipate knee high+ water. Once through it rises sharply into a coniferous forest that breaks across an avalanche-cleared slope to the second ford back to the east side (6.45 miles : 10,235’).
It climbs steeply to a long, open arc across a talus slope (7.0 miles : 10,605'). Find raspberries tucked in the rocks, and good views of Pyramid Peak and adjacent ridges that form the west valley wall.
The trail continues steadily in a pleasant but nondescript subalpine forest on sections of the old road. Stay vigilant, as the trail braids in several places and makes a key right turn at a potentially unmarked point (7.7 miles : 10,935’).
Though maps indicate a clear split, it’s very easy to miss. Veering left keeps you on a clear path that fades above treeline on the east side of the valley, heading toward Copper Pass. Keep right at all braids and forks that lead NW across the valley.
Timber thins as you turn NW and cross the top of East Maroon Creek (8.5 miles) to a large basin under the pass (8.8 miles). There’s some great camping terrain in this area. The trail curls up the west valley wall on a ramp-like path to East Maroon Pass (9.7 miles : 11,824’).
Continue down the far side for views of Copper Lake, or take a social trail to more central points in the valley with excellent views down the entire drainage. Elk and mountain goat are active in this rich and lightly traveled part of the valley.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N39 07.484 W106 54.286 — 0.0 miles : East Maroon Creek Trailhead
- N39 06.904 W106 54.540 — .75 miles : Fast intervals of meadow and aspen
- N39 06.492 W106 54.697 — 1.3 miles : Maroon Lake access spur
- N39 05.972 W106 54.951 — 2.0 miles : Veer SW into the East Maroon Creek valley
- N39 05.404 W106 55.030 — 2.75 miles : Rise over riparian habitat restoration area
- N39 04.794 W106 55.330 — 3.5 miles : Enter large meadow
- N39 04.268 W106 55.539 — 4.2 miles : Spur to horse camp
- N39 03.755 W106 55.713 — 4.9 miles : Pass small cabin remains
- N39 03.194 W106 55.885 — 5.6 miles : Ford creek to west side
- N39 02.597 W106 55.964 — 6.4 miles : Ford creek back to east side
- N39 02.062 W106 55.941 — 7.05 miles : Trail arcs across talus slope
- N39 01.590 W106 56.084 — 7.7 miles : Trail braids - keep right each time
- N39 01.222 W106 55.805 — Trail turns NW across valley
- N39 01.068 W106 55.845 — 8.5 miles : Cross top of East Maroon Creek
- N39 01.120 W106 56.120 — 8.8 miles : Cross edge of large open basin below pass
- N39 01.082 W106 56.442 — 9.2 miles : Ramp-like trail to pass
- N39 00.696 W106 56.543 — 9.7 miles : East Maroon Pass
- Expect equestrian traffic on the trail.
- Be bear-aware, especially late summer and early fall along the first 3 miles. Bears are active in this berry-lined corridor.
- Mild grades and terrain make this is a great trail run, and an ideal place to train for more challenging runs such as the 4 Pass Loop.
- The first three miles produce some of the area's best autumn colors, and great habitat for seeing wildlife, particularly bear and moose.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- 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 is no fee for this permit, however there's a $10 fee to access the East Maroon Creek and Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass trailheads 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).
- Honor revegetation efforts along East Maroon Creek and camp away from these marked areas.
- Campfires are permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal and location-specific restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream.
- 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 East Maroon Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
Directions to Trailhead
The East Maroon Creek - East Maroon Portal Trailhead is located 6.2 miles west of Highway 82 on the south side of Maroon Creek Road.
From Highway 82 in Aspen, follow the roundabout 1 mile NW of town onto Maroon Creek Road. Follow Maroon Creek Road to the turnoff for East Maroon Portal. 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.
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