Maroon Bells: 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.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
From the shores of Maroon Lake, this lollipop-loop climbs to Crater Lake and turns south to circle clockwise 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. From there 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 before dipping back 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. The last several miles of this loop switchback downhill, crossing avalanche-battered hillsides and touching the edge of the Minehaha Gulch. The loop closes at Crater Lake, where you’ll retrace your steps the final 1.6 miles to the trailhead.
-Mapped and photographed by Kristy Holland and Anne Whetzel
Permit None, but register at the trailhead Contact Maroon Bells Wilderness