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Aspen, CO: Four Pass Loop

Four 12,000-foot passes, classic alpine views and a rugged loop around Colorado’s most-photographed peaks make this 26.5-mile backpack a Rocky Mountain epic.

Rating

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

To Trailhead

From Aspen, 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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