SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – January 2011

Rip & Go: Four Pass Loop

Like peaks, lakes, and wildflowers? You'll love this Rockies classic in White River National Forest.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

The iconic view from Maroon Lake's northeast shore. (Glenn Randall)
The iconic view from Maroon Lake's northeast shore. (Glenn Randall)
Wildflowers on the West Maroon Trail. (Carr Clifton)
Wildflowers on the West Maroon Trail. (Carr Clifton)
Reader expert Randy Van Winkle.
Reader expert Randy Van Winkle.
Reader expert Steven Van Goff.
Reader expert Steven Van Goff.

trip iconTAKE IT WITH YOU
Download a printable version of this entire trip right here.

DO IT

BACKPACKER editors just named the Four Pass Loop one of our favorite trips ever—and Rockies readers agree, voting this their #1 hike. Here’s their advice for getting the 26-mile, four-day route’s sparkling creeks, peak-ringed lakes, and, yes, a quartet of 12,000-foot passes all to yourself. Go counterclockwise, starting at Maroon Lake (1), where the purple-streaked Maroon Bells dominate the sky. Follow the north shore on the West Maroon Trail, then turn right at the signed junction (2). Switchback .2 mile to Crater Lake (3) and a showstopping photo op of the Bells (see next page). Continue on West Maroon Trail 3.7 miles, then choose one of the established campsites edging the meadow (4). (Resist the urge to press on—the next campsite isn’t for five miles.) On day two, continue uphill, gaining 800 feet in .9 mile as you inch toward 12,480-foot West Maroon Pass (5), perched between the Mars-like rock of Belleview Mountain and Mt. Bellview. The trail then descends into Hasley Basin, where you’ll hike past meadows of Indian paintbrush and columbine (peak flowers: late July) before turning right at a junction (6). Turn right again at a three-way junction (7) and gain 400 feet to the crest of 12,415-foot Frigid Air Pass (8). From here, drop into lush Fravert Basin before reentering a conifer forest (9). Continue west for 1.3 miles to your second campsite, one of several spots scattered among ponderosas 150 feet from the North Fork of the Crystal River (10). Next morning, you’ll ford the 20-foot-wide creek (11). At mile 13.7, turn right and switchback steeply through aspen groves en route to pass #3: 12,400-foot Trail Rider Pass (12), just below Snowmass Peak. Drop to Snowmass Lake (13), your next camp. On your final day, turn right at the junction (14) and hike beneath sheer, red-rock cliffs and across Snowmass Creek before powering up to 12,462-foot Buckskin Pass (15). Look for mountain goats at mile 21.5; you can often spot nannies with kids in summer. Rejoin the West Maroon Trail (16) to finish the loop.


ice age trail
Trip Planner
Get there From Aspen, go west on CO 82 for .5 mile. Take second exit at traffic circle to Maroon Creek Rd. Drive 9.5 miles to trailhead. Or take the Aspen Highlands Village shuttle ($6 each way, rfta.com). 

Maps
USGS Maroon Bells and Snowmass Mountain ($8, store.usgs.gov)

Permit
Register at trailhead; (970) 925-3445

Gear up
Ute Mountaineer, 308 S. Mill St., Aspen, CO; (970) 925-2849

Trip ID
551196





Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
polo
Feb 28, 2014

Gucci Outlet, http://www.guccishoesfactories.net/
Polo Outlet Online, http://www.polo-outletstore.com/
Ralph Lauren UK, http://www.ralphlaurenuker.com/
Polo Lauren Ralph, http://www.ralphwlaurenpolo.com/
Pas Cher Longchamp Sacs, http://www.saclongchamppairs.com/
Canada Goose Outlet, http://www.canadagooser.com/
Monster Headphones Outlet Online, http://www.discountbeatsbydresale.com/
Burberry Outlet, http://www.burbagssale2013.com/
North Face Jackets Outlet, http://www.north-faceoutletonlines.net/
Michael Kors Outlet, http://www.michaelkors.so/
Marc Jacobs Outlet Online, http://www.marcjacobsonsale.com/
Michael Kors Outlet Online, http://www.michaelkorstates.com/
Cheap Hollister UK Online, http://www.cheaphollistersale.co.uk/
North Clearance, http://www.northsclearance.com/
Coach Purses Outlet Online, http://www.coach-purseonsale.com/
Coach Factory Online,http://www.coach-factoryy.com/
Coach Outlet Online, http://www.coach-outletusa.com/

Star Star Star Star Star
mk outlet
Nov 03, 2013

Gucci Shoes Outlet,http://www.guccishoesofactory.com/
North Face Outlet Online,http://www.north-faceoutletonlines.net/
Monster Beats Outlet Online,http://www.mmonsterheadphones.net/
Polo Ralph Outlet Online,http://www.laurenpoloralph.com/
Coach Purses Outlet Online,http://www.newoutletonlinemall.com/
Coach Factory Store,http://www.coachfactories.com/
MCM Handbags Outlet Online,http://www.mcmsworldwide.com/
North Clearance Outlet Online,http://www.north-clearances.com/
Michael Kors Outlet Online,http://www.michaelkorsoutletstate.com/
Michael Kors Outlet,http://www.mkoutletcart.com/
Michael Kors Purses,http://www.new-michaelkorspurses.com/
Coach Purses Store,http://www.copursesoutletonline.com/
Louis Vuitton Shoes Outlet,http://www.lv-guccishoesfactory.com/
Louis Vuitton Outlet,http://www.l-vusashop.com/
Coach Factory Outlet Online,http://www.bags-outletfactory.com/
Coach Outlet USA,http://coachoutlettusa.tumblr.com/
Michael Kors Outlet, http://www.clickmichaelkors.com/
Coach Store Outlet, http://www.bags-storesonline2013.com/
http://www.newoutletonlinemall.com/ Coach Outlet Coach Outlet Online Coach Factory Outlet Online Coach Factory Outlet Coach Factory Online Coach Factory Store Coach Factory Coach Purses Outlet Online Coach Purses Outlet Coach Outlet USA Coach Outlet Online USA Coach Store Online Coach Store Outlet

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike G
Oct 14, 2013

There is no way on earth this thing is 26 miles. It might be in some linear sense, but actual trail miles its more like 40 or else my GPS is completely wrong (and its not)---take your time. Its a beast. If you go clockwise, get as close as you possibly can to the first pass (West Maroon)(take two days if you have to) before setting up camp because your gonna have to do two passes in one day West Maroon and Frigid Air if you want to keep any sort of pace...This means climbing up to Maroon Pass, descending to the valley below, climbing all the way back up to Frigid Air pass, and descending all the way back down to the valley again....in search of a good campsite...and last time I was there, every time I found one, there was a sign that said "No Camping" which when you are absolutely exhausted--is incredibly infuriating.
The place is unbelievably gorgeous though and well worth the trip--Im not from Colorado or a Mountain state, so my perspectives on distance and exertion might be different from people from those types of states, but I found this loop to be quite strenuous, also make sure you go in late summer, else those passes will all be snowed in and you will need an ice axe, and a good idea of where the pass actually is...
Bring your blister patches...your gonna need em.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mark
Oct 10, 2013

Did this trip in September of 2012. This was the best backpacking trip I've ever experienced. We spent two nights along the shores at Snowmass Lake. Did a lot of fishing and relaxing. I'm looking forward to taking my children on this hike when they get a little older. Quick heads up, going clockwise, time your 2nd pass right so you're not caught up on top with storms blowing in.

Star Star Star Star Star
ewa
Jun 04, 2013

wow.. its a great place to buy cheap medicine... Because now a days medicine is need for all home.. so it is very easily way to purchase medicine at home... wonderful article.
<a href="http://www.fhalendinggroup.com/home-mortgage-company">fha home lending</a>

Star Star Star Star Star
marc jacobs bags
May 28, 2013

Against AIDS Gala, but be warned: daydreaming is likely. http://www.marcjacobsbagsstore.com marc jacobs bags Those gauzy shirts and un-finished hems may not be available until Winter's wrath starts to wane, but you can get your paws on this up-and-comer's Autumn/Winter collection now. And in terms of staying cosy, the latter wins - hands down. Originally worn by sailors on the high sea, the hip-hugging classic features broad lapels and a chan luu-breasted front - but it can be tricked up with epaulettes, gold buttons, hoods and mid-thigh lengths. Whether you want to wear open to maximize your layering options or top-button to create a '60 inspired shell shape, this is one that is well worth investing in.A pair of fitness gloves like these, Sacre bleau! chan luu bracelet has done it. J.Lo is certainly no stranger to it. The 2013 Marc By Marc Jacobs Clutch Express Fashion Export Scholarship is looking for an emerging Australian label who has been exporting its designs no longer than four years. The recipient of the scholarship will receive $10,000 worth of international freight services, as well as a coveted one-on-one appointment with the buying team from Marc By Marc Jacobs - both http://www.voguecoachoutlet.com coach outlet online stepping stones to turning a local label into an internationally recognised brand. Our own Megan went commando at Cannes and heck!

Glenn Beaton
Jul 19, 2012

It should be noted that the winter route to Conundrum crosses many avy paths.

johnny
Aug 25, 2011

Did this clockwise loop in five days/ four nights at the beginning of August 2011. Wildflowers were peaking, weather was excellent and the ever-changing views of the Bells and the rest of the Elk Mtns. was worth the effort. Saw a lot of people doing this is two or three days which was a shame. Plan in an extra day so you can enjoy the scenery that is only accessible by your feet. There are hidden campsites near treeline on the west side of buckskin that affords unblocked views of Snowmass and North Maroon. That is an excellent place to chill out and soak up some solitude like we did. Enjoy.

Jason
Aug 13, 2011

So the first part of the article says to go counterclockwise by taking a right at the first junction; but all of the landmarks from that point in the article are laid out as if you were going clockwise by taking a left. Glad I caught that before I started hiking, would have been really confusing.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Intelligent Proposal For Amendment of The
Posted On: Apr 15, 2014
Submitted By: Montanalonewolf
Trailhead Register
Who Has The Lowest REI Member Number?
Posted On: Apr 15, 2014
Submitted By: big_load
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions