Four Pass Loop - West Maroon to Buckskin
• Bear canisters are required for all backpackers in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.
• Advance reservation permits are required for overnight stays in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness Overnight Permit Zones.
The famous Four Pass Loop backpacking route within Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness is an international treasure. This 26 mile (42 km) circuit climbs over four mountain passes higher than 12,000 ft, past clear alpine lakes and among the rugged Elk Range peaks.
Make sure to plan ahead and know before you go! Early summer snowmelt makes the river crossing perilous and deep snow persists on the passes until late in the summer. Sudden thunderstorms can catch travelers exposed far from the cover of tree-line in mid-summer and snow fall returns to the high country early.
The Four Pass Loop is considered a difficult and challenging route due to the elevation and terrain.
At a Glance
|Current Conditions:||The Four Pass Loop is often snow-bound from October through June.|
|Reservations:||Summer travel on Maroon Creek Road is restricted. Reservations are required to access the Maroon Bells Scenic Area by vehicle or Roaring Fork Transit Authority( RFTA) shuttle. Some Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness trailheads are within the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. See Maroon Bells Scenic Area for specific access and logistics.|
|Fees:||Fees are charged for high season overnight stays in permitted zones of the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, and for parking and shuttle reservations at Maroon Bells Scenic Area.|
|Permit Info:||A permit is required for overnight stays in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Overnight Permit Zones. This permit must be acquired in advance at recreation.gov.
For all other overnight trips to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, registration is required at the trailhead.
|Best Season:||July - September|
Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness regulations protect this special place:
|Closest Towns:||Aspen, Colorado|
|Water:||Treat and filter all water|
|Restroom:||No restrooms in Wilderness; see Restrictions|
|Information Center:||Aspen-Sopris Ranger Station:
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
River and Stream Fishing
Fishing is permitted in all streams and lakes within the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness subject to the regulations of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The Four Pass Loop accessed from the Maroon Lake trailhead is 26 miles with ~11,000 ft. (3,350 meters) of vertical gain. Depending on the party's ability, trail and weather conditions, this loop can take between 3 and 5 days to complete. Many enjoyable side hikes, detours or alternate access points can be added to make the Loop longer.
Day 1 Maroon-Snowmass TH at Maroon Lake – Hike to Crater Lake and turn south along the West Maroon Trail. Cross the creek and hike a little further to find nice secluded campsites off both sides of the trail.
Day 2 Cross the creek early before climbing to the top of W. Maroon Pass (12,500 ft.). Drop down into the expansive alpine basin of the East Fork staying right at the signed junction, before climbing again to the top of Frigid Air Pass (12,400 ft.). From here, drop down into the forest of Fravert Basin to find a camp above or south of the trail before King’s waterfall.
Day 3 Continue west along the North Fork of the Crystal before crossing it at a wide point. Shortly after this crossing take a right up the cutoff trail towards Trail Rider Pass (12,420 ft.). From here it is a steep descent to Snowmass Lake where you make camp 100 ft. from the lake, stream and trails.
Day 4 From Snowmass Lake take the Maroon – Snowmass Trail towards Buckskin Pass (12,500 ft.). Descend to Crater and then Maroon Lake to finish your loop.
|Difficulty Level:||More Difficult|
The short (1.75 mi – one way) hike to Crater Lake offers a preview of the Four Pass Loop and a great spot for a day hike.