In a state known for its mountains, the Maroon Bells stand out among Colorado’s most iconic peaks. Located just a short drive from the mountain resort town of Aspen, the Bells are among the most photographed and visited peaks in the state, possibly even the entire US. Despite the Maroon Bells proximity to Aspen and fairly easy road access, the peaks stand within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.
The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness contains more than 180,000 acres within the rugged Elk Range. With its stunning scenery, it comes to no surprise that the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is one of the busiest in Colorado. The area offers about 100 miles of trails, making it a paradise for hikers and backpackers.
The Four Pass Loop is possibly Colorado’s most popular backpacking loop and draws hikers from around the country. As its name implies, it travels over four passes, all over 12,000 feet, as it circumnavigates the Maroon Bells on a 26-28 mile loop. While it circles around the two 14,000 foot summits of the Maroon Bells, the route also passes under 14ers Snowmass Mountain and Pyramid Peak. Much of the route is above treeline.
When I first moved to Colorado, I planned on hiking the Four Pass Loop is a one day trip. While I have done several one-day endurance treks, I really wanted to get more out of the region. I looked over a map of the area and researched other routes. Besides the Four Pass Loop, I found several other backpacking trips in the area. The East Snowmass-Snowmass Loop is a slightly shorter loop to the north that shares a section of the Four Pass Loop and climbs three 12,000 foot passes. Also sharing part of the loop is the nearly 40 miles Capitol Circuit. The Capitol Circuit also features four passes as it circumnavigates 14ers Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mountain.
I decided on a more ambitious 51-mile loop that incorporated parts of all three of these treks including a little extra travel. My route would include 7 passes that climb over 12,000 feet and additional high pass just under 12,000.
I started my trek from the Snowmass Creek trailhead, just south of the town of Snowmass. The more popular Maroon Lake Trailhead can also be used as a starting point. Starting from Maroon Lake involves more logistics. Parking is not available between 8AM-5PM. During that time, you are required to take a shuttle to the trailhead from Aspen. Parking and the shuttle are not free. If taking the shuttle, you must also pay to park at one of the resort lots which is as much as $20 per day. The Snowmass Creek trailhead does not have any fees.
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I began my hike just after 9 AM on Sunday, August 12th. My route started on the East Snowmass Trail and I quickly entered the Wilderness. Within a few minutes of starting my hike, I passed a hummingbird that was sitting on the trail and seemingly unable to fly.
The East Snowmass trail does not get to any of the territories 14ers and sees less traffic than a portion of different trails. The trail starts moving above East Snowmass Creek through the woods before arriving at knolls closer to the spring. Above treeline, the perspectives open up to the encompassed edges underneath overlooked 13,000-foot summits. I passed various gatherings of explorers that were plummeting the trail. While the landscape is pleasant, the permeability has lessened a piece from the smoke. Various out of control fires, incorporating the biggest throughout the entire existence of California were consuming and smoke had been moving into a large portion of Colorado for some time.
After 7 miles, I arrived at the first of my 8 passes. While not authoritatively named, I have seen the primary pass alluded to as East Snowmass Pass and furthermore called North Willow Pass by local people. Regardless of what you call it, at 12,680′, it is the most astounding pass and points on my outing. I climbed 4300 vertical feet in those 7 miles. The pass disregards the high Willow Lake bowl with its few little lakes notwithstanding its bigger namesake lake.
From the primary pass, the trail drops into the Willow Lake bowl. At more than 12,000 feet, the bowl is very picturesque. The fundamental lakes are encircled by anonymous, rough tops. The stone in the zone, a similar shake that gives the Maroon Bells its name, is very red. Willow Lake seems as though it would be a decent outdoors goal. I think most about the explorers I passed on the East Snowmass trail originated from Willow Lake. In spite of the traffic on East Snowmass, I had the bowl to myself. I went through the green bowl for under two miles before arriving at my next pass.
Willow Pass remains around 12,600′. From Willow Pass, I had my first perspective on 14ers North Maroon and Pyramid Peak. The trail, presently the Willow Lake Trail, drops rapidly from the pass. The trail passes a little, shallow pool and stream before dropping into a ravine.
Every single medium-term client is required to have an endorsed bear canister for the capacity of nourishment and whatever else that may pull in natural life, for example, toothpaste or sunscreen. Bear canisters are cumbersome and substantial. There are routine reports of bears in and around the busier campgrounds. I have heard various reports of bears around Crater Lake specifically. Preceding my outing, I reached the nearby Ranger District and endorsed Ursacks may likewise be utilized for those wanting to save money on mass and weight.
A portion of the higher use territories has explicit outdoors guidelines. Other than typical Wilderness outdoors guidelines, outdoors at Crater Lake, Geneva Lake, Capitol Lake, and Snowmass Lake are restricted to assigned locales inside a specific good ways from the lakes. While I didn’t perceive any officers during my climb, I’m told they will implement these principles and issue fines for infringement. Likewise, as I referenced previously, there are street and stopping confinements for access at the Maroon Lake trailhead.
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