The Trail: From Aspen to Crested Butte

Meander through head-high wildflowers on this lung-busting, must-do 11.6-mile point-to-point hike that brings you from the posh streets of Aspen to the adventure-hungry town of Crested Butte via West Maroon Pass. Enjoy breathtaking alpine scenery as you climb 3,000 feet through the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness.

Trailhead 

The hike begins at idyllic Maroon Lake. Hop on the trail to the right of the lake and traverse a meadow dappled with flowers. Remember, a shuttle is required on the other end for this adventure if you are doing it one way.

Intersection with Scenic Loop

Traverse through a small meadow to reach the end of the lake and an intersection with the Scenic Loop Trail. Stay right for the Maroon-Snowmass Trail. For a brief moment, you break out of the forest and have to pick your way over some talus.

Willow Creek Trail Junction 

After hiking 1.9 miles from the trailhead, the Willow Creek Trail intersects with the main route. Take the left fork and follow the sign pointing toward Crater Lake and follow the trail as it skirts along the right side of the lake. Camp in the designated sites here if you plan to spend the night. The trail meanders along the stream for a short distance and then re-enters the forest. Upon emerging from the forest, the trail bends south/southwest and weaves its way across the rocky base of the Maroon Bells. Pick your way carefully across the rocks.  Climb higher and don’t forget to stop to look back for breathtaking views of Crater Lake and Pyramid Peak.

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Creek Crossing

The trail swiftly ascends the valley. Keep an eye out for a sign with an arrow pointing to the left indicating that the trail crosses east over West Maroon Creek. Depending on water levels, this wide crossing can be formidable so take your time finding the best way across. Once you’ve forded the stream, the trail climbs steadily upward through forest and patches of willow. When you reach treeline, nature rewards you with your first full view of the steep headwall and West Maroon Pass. The trail crosses the creek and climbs steeply along a rocky trail teeming with wildflowers and majestic views of the iconic Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. Scan the slopes above for marmots, pika, mountain goats and bighorn sheep, but be mindful of your steps as you huff through the last mile traverse which gains 945 feet along a narrow and sometimes unstable ramp-like trail.

West Maroon Pass

Enjoy astounding views from your highpoint at West Maroon Pass (12,490 feet). From the the pass, the trail descends via steep, scree-filled switchbacks to the East Fork Creek Trail and meadows bursting with wildflowers. It’s clear why Crested Butte is dubbed the “wildflower capital of Colorado.” Take some time to soak it in.

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Frigid Air Pass Junction

After 8.3 miles, the main trail intersects with the Frigid Air Pass Trail, which heads right. Continue straight, following the main trail as it curves through the valley and then bears left.

Hasley Basin Trail Junction

Walk another mile until the trail crosses a small stream and then intersects with the Hasley Basin Trail, which bears to the right. Stay left to follow the main trail and continue downhill.

Schofield Pass Trailhead

Just after a series of downhill switchbacks, you pass an old cabin and the trail heads into stands of spruce. Schofield Park is just minutes ahead. Meet your shuttle here.

Trail Gear

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Summit Hooded Jacket

This tough, durable softshell delivers superb protection in an ultralight (18.5 ounces), packable package that won’t bog you down. Because it’s built to balance breathability with defense against the elements, the tougher-than-it-looks jacket exceeds expectations when you’re pushing limits and the wind kicks up or light precip begins to fall. $165; outdoorresearch.com

Arc’teryx Acrux SL Approach Shoe Don’t let the name fool you—this well-designed,16.3-ounce shoe will keep your feet happy on day hikes and around town as well as on those technical approaches. Adaptive fit technology, high air permeability and sticky traction join to create a versatile shoe no matter the season or the terrain. $170; arcteryx.com

—C.K.

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