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Aspen, CO: Buckskin Pass to Snowmass Lake

There is fierce competition for the finest scenery on this challenging trek to Snowmass Lake: alpine lakes, rocky chasms, and 14,000-foot peaks.

Rating

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

To Trailhead

Head west on CO 82 for 0.5 mile and take the second exit at the traffic circle onto Maroon Creek Road. Drive 9.5 miles to the trailhead.

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