From the shores of Maroon Lake, this lollipop-loop climbs to Crater Lake and turns south for a clockwise loop around the Maroon Bells. Campsites, creek crossings, and cross-valley views pepper the 6.25-mile climb to pass number one: 12,500-foot West Maroon. The rocky saddle falls westward into Halsey Basin where there are several wildflower-festooned trails that lead to Crested Butte. This route turns north, hugging the basin’s eastern edge before climbing a steep, loose path toward pass number two: 12,415-foot Frigid Air. Long sweeping switchbacks descend eastward into Fravert Basin. After a wet river crossing of the North Fork Crystal River, the trail turns uphill for a tough, aspen-lined climb toward an alpine lake below pass number three: 12,400-foot Trailrider. Snowmass Peak looms overhead as the trail skirts scree fields and dips below treeline near Snowmass Lake at mile 18.
The final climb to pass number four: 12,462-foot Buckskin Pass winds 3.5 miles through wetland meadows and turns increasingly uphill near the pass. The last several miles of this loop switchback downhill crossing avalanche-battered hillsides and touching the edge of the Minehaha Gulch before closing the loop at Crater Lake where you’ll retrace your steps the final 1.6 miles to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland and Anne Whetzel