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Hike from the Aspen side of the Elk Mountains to the Crested Butte side by the Maroon Bells.


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Map Key

10.8

Miles

17.4

KM

Point to Point

12,345' 3,763 m

High

9,574' 2,918 m

Low

2,878' 877 m

Up

2,034' 620 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

48%

Max Grade (26°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

This is an incredible hike that takes you from the Maroon Bells Trailhead, past the Maroon Bells, over West Maroon Pass, to the remote East Fork Trailhead near Schofield Pass. It is highly recommended to use a bus shuttle and have a vehicle shuttle plan on both sides of this route. This could also be a great multi-day hike option with a return via East Maroon Pass, or Triangle Pass, or the Grand Traverse Run course. The Maroon Bells are said to be the most photographed place in Colorado, and this route takes you right past them. Also, the views from West Maroon Pass are gorgeous. The wildflower fields will take your breath away.

Need to Know

This route requires special care due to the distance and high elevation. Remember to bring the correct gear like a solid rain jacket, water purifier, map, and warm clothing. If you are planning to leave a car in Aspen, the best place to park is the parking deck called the Rio Grande Parking Plaza at 427 Rio Grande Place.

Description

Due to the afternoon heat and potential thunderstorms, it's best to start this hike early. The logistics of this one-way route require plenty of advanced planning. A shuttle bus leaves Aspen Highlands every 15 minutes, and often requires an advanced reservation through the RFTA website or Aspen Chamber website. If you plan to drive your personal car to the Maroon, you'll need to make a reservation on the Aspen Chamber website. You can also hire a shuttle company like Maroon Bells Shuttles which shuttles your vehicle for you, or Dolly's Mountain Shuttle (Crested Butte) or Alpine Express (Crested Butte), both of which bring you from the East Fork Trailhead to Crested Butte (or CB to the trailhead).

The route turns to trails at Maroon Lake. If you time it right, you can snap a picture of the mountains illuminated by the sunlight reflected on the lake. After Maroon Lake, the route takes you up to Crater Lake and the base of North Maroon Peak via the West Maroon Trail.

Above Crater Lake there is treatable water (around 13.5 miles) as you make your way to West Maroon Pass. West Maroon Pass is part of the famous Four Pass Loop, so soak up the beauty and plan your next adventure as you climb to 12,500 feet.

As you continue down from West Maroon Pass, the route will eventually fork to the left and go down the valley. There is usually treatable water along this portion of the trail. The West Maroon Trail terminates in a parking lot at the East Fork Trailhead. This is where most people get in the planned shuttle van, or pick up their car that was shuttled by a shuttle company.

If you choose to run or hike the remaining ten miles to Mount Crested Butte, the route takes the dirt road to the left over Schofield Pass and heads to the old mining town of Gothic. Stop for pictures and to top of your water at Emerald Lake. There may be livestock grazing along the route after this point so it is best to refill your water at Emerald Lake. In Gothic, there is a visitors center that sells cold drinks, has bathrooms, and plenty of interesting information about Gothic if it is open. Gothic is a former mining town that is now home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

After Gothic the route continues down the dirt road to Crested Butte ski area. You can stop here for the night or continue to the town of Crested Butte. There are plenty of lodging and dining options in both places.

If you return to Aspen by foot, you can go back the same way or pick one of the other routes such as East Maroon Pass, Triangle Pass / Conundrum Creek Trail #1981, or the Grand Traverse course. All of the routes mentioned will not leave you disappointed. There are also shuttle services that will drive passengers back to Aspen.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers, moose, raptors, song birds, pikas, marmots, and much more.

History & Background

Old mining town, mines, and log cabins.

Contacts

Shared By:

Doug Bachman with improvements by Aron Bosworth

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 7 votes

#1203

Overall
  4.7 from 7 votes
5 Star
86%
4 Star
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3 Star
14%
2 Star
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1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#234

in Colorado

#1,203

Overall
21 Views Last Month
6,961 Since Sep 17, 2018
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Photos

One hell of an evening at the Maroon Bells
Sep 27, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Moose
Feb 9, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Maroon Bells
Apr 1, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Looking up the West Maroon Valley on a crisp fall afternoon.
Oct 24, 2016 near Snowmas…, CO
Starting the Four Pass journey. Dawn light on North Maroon Peak. Photo: Michelle Smith
Aug 31, 2015 near Snowmas…, CO
Taking a break on the way to Snowmass Lake on the Maroon Bells 4-Pass Loop.
Aug 13, 2016 near Snowmas…, CO

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