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Four Pass Loop

 5.0 (65)

Length


27.1 Miles 43.6 Kilometers


7,734' 2,357 m

Ascent

-7,735' -2,358 m

Descent

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

55%

Max Grade (29°)

12,460' 3,798 m

High

9,567' 2,916 m

Low

Shared By Jason Smith

Conditions


All Clear 6 days ago
Dry History

Getting forecast...

An all-time journey over four 12,500' alpine passes, circumnavigating the Maroon Bells.

Jason Smith

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked

Overview

Up and over four incredible 12,000'+ mountain passes around the Maroon Bells Wilderness. People do this as a 4-day backpack... and it's a common 1-day run!
If you're planning on doing this as an overnight, you must perform a self check-in and fill out an overnight permit. For more information on camping, download this PDF.

Need to Know

To access the trailhead at Maroon Lake, you must enter the Maroon Bells Scenic Area before 8am or after 5pm to access with a vehicle, which a $10 entrance fee is required. Otherwise, shuttle buses run for all visitors arriving between 8am-5pm. For more info click here.

Description

Begin at the Maroon Snowmass Trailhead. This route is described counterclockwise, going Buckskin Pass, Trail Rider Pass, Frigid Air Pass, West Maroon Pass. Either way is great.

Proceed South on Maroon Snowmass Trail, climbing gradually over 1.5 miles. Make a right at a signed T-intersection headed for Buckskin Pass (Buckskin Pass Trail). Nowhere to go but up with spectacular views of N. Maroon (14,014') blowing up to your left as you crest treeline.

From the top turn around to savor the early morning sun on Pyramid Peak (14,018'), eye up the trail descending right and take it down toward the densely forested Snowmass Creek drainage. After about 3 miles from the top of Buckskin, take the first left onto Geneva Lake Trail at a t-intersection. In early August 2014, this critical juncture was not signed. Consult the Hiking Project mobile app here to make sure you make the turn.

Let the pain begin as you ascend southwestward to Trail Rider Pass over the stunning Snowmass Lake and under the eastern flanks of the hulking Snowmass Mountain (14,092').

From Trail Rider summit (12,500'), enjoy sweeping views of the remote West Elks & brace your skeleton for the steepest, most jarring descent of the day.

Note: If you encounter dangerous weather, a possible bailout is to exit to the southwest at the Geneva Lake trailhead, where you can probably hitch a ride with a 4x4 on the Lead King Loop down to Marble to make a pickup call.

About two miles off the top of Trail Rider, keep a sharp eye out for your next critical left turn, onto the unsigned North Fork Cutoff Trail. For the next mile you'll traverse southeast on a steep hillside until merging with North Fork Crystal River. If you need a break, this is a good spot to fill up water and get off your feet. After another mile, look for a ridiculous waterfall & enter the pain cave once again as you switchback above the falls to enter the otherworldly Fravert Basin.

From here, it's 2.75 miles under Maroon Peak (14,156') through unreal alpine terrain to the top of Frigid Air Pass. Keep some gas in the tank to savor this section. From Frigid Air summit (12,500'), take heart because you have just two miles and much less vertical relief to Maroon Pass.

Halfway between the passes, go straight toward Maroon at a T, meeting West Maroon Trail. Punch it over your final 12,500' pass, and cruise the last seven miles down the West Maroon Creek drainage to your cooler.

Flora & Fauna

More wildflowers than you can count...

Contacts

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Your Check-Ins

Check-Ins

Jul 12, 2018
Stephanie Lee
27.1mi
Jul 8, 2018
Jason Ganes
27.1mi
Jul 7, 2018
Muthu Kumar Ramasamy
27.1mi
Jul 7, 2018
Gillian Scarborough
Jun 29, 2018
Alexander Molik
May 31, 2018
Breanna Vasquez
Snow storm. 26.5mi
May 29, 2018
Nico Peters
The trail was covered in snow. Waist deep with a sun crust. Would not attempt without snow shoes or skis for another month 27.1mi
May 26, 2018
Troy Young

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 65 votes

#1

in Aspen

#2

Overall
  5.0 from 65 votes
5 Star
97%
4 Star
2%
3 Star
2%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#1

in Aspen

#1

in Colorado

#2

Overall
7,966 Views Last Month
61,799 Since Feb 9, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
4%
71%
24%
2%

Photos


 
We always do it clockwise and LOVE it. Some fantastic camping spots along the way! May 12, 2016
Acclimate yourself before going. This trail is too good to get altitude sickness on. Sep 5, 2017
A litte shocked that the average rating is intermediate on this one. Definitely hard (diamond or even double diamond), and I saw many people turn away after their first day on the trail. May 7, 2018

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