This challenging, 16-mile roundtrip traverses Buckskin Pass for a sampling of Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area highlights. Admire Maroon Lake’s surface reflection of the Maroon Bells before a steady climb through aspen turns sharply uphill from Crater Lake. The trail rises 2,200 feet over the next 2.7 miles, skirting Minnehaha Gulch’s rocky chasm and traversing a forest of avalanche-tossed trees on the way to sub-alpine meadows below Buckskin Pass.
Atop the 12,462-foot pass, western views of Snowmass Mountain, southeast views of Pyramid Peak, and southern views of the Maroon Bells compete as photo-op backdrops before the trail drops quickly below red-hued cliffs into the marshy upper reaches of Snowmass Creek. About 2 miles from the pass, the descent mellows for a pine-shaded roll past a beaver-dammed marsh and a several well-marked junctions leading to Snowmass Lake’s rocky shore.
Several campsites near the lake are prime real estate for base camps below Snowmass Mountain or overnight respites before the 1,400-foot climb back to Buckskin Pass. Backcountry camping in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is free, but expect to pay a per-car fee or per-passenger shuttle fare to access the trailhead at Maroon Lake.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland and Annie Whetzel