Packed with some of Colorado’s most dramatic mountain scenery, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is a must for hikers. This overnighter from the wilderness’ Crested Butte side begins from an early-season start point on the road below Emerald Lake and climbs toward Schofield Park (accessible by 4WD during most of the summer). At Schofield Park, you’ll turn right to follow the West Maroon Pass Trail along the Crysteal River’s East Fork. Most of this route is above treeline, but is lined by bushes and wildflowers during the summer. Near mile 4.2, (mile 2 if you started at Schofield Park), bypass the Hasley Basin Trail and continue toward a rolling basin below Frigid Air and West Maroon passes. This route’s east-bound leg ends at a backcountry campsite off the trail, but if weather permits, consider a day-end out-and-back to either West Maroon or Frigid Air passes. Both round-trips are under 3 miles, but West Maroon has a more direct, steeper climb.
On Day 2, backtrack to the Hasley Basin Trail and stash your pack for a light-and-fast ascent to the basin’s edge. This sometimes faint trail climbs steeply to a wide, shallow bowl, and continues to the head of the basin draining the Crystal River’s North Fork. From this route-end knob, ogle stunning views of the Maroon Bells, Elk Mountains and Belleview Mountain before backtracking to Schofield Park or the early-season trailhead.
-Mapped by Steve Johnson
- Distance: 20.2
Location: 39.0050455, -107.0307286
The rugged road to the trailhead may be covered in snow or otherwise impassable. Be prepared to hike 2 extra miles to the Schofeild Park trailhead if it’s early spring and the road’s snow hasn’t been cleared or melted.
Location: 39.007046, -107.0384645
Bear right on the road below Emerald Lake. This old wagon route was built in 1883 and has a more gradual climb than the trail that skirts the lake more closely. The high road offers resplendent views of the lake.
Location: 39.0162622, -107.0473884
Just over Schofield Pass, turn right at the Y-junction and follow the trail downhill along Rock Creek. You’ll drop more than 300 feet over the next 0.8 miles before turning up the valley on your right.
Location: 39.0246234, -107.0507299
When the road is clear, 4WD vehicles can proceed 2 miles farther up the road to this trailhead parking lot just before the abandoned Schofield townsite. Turn right here and cross a stream to the West Maroon Pass Trail junction where you’ll turn uphill again.
Location: 39.025725, -107.0460297
Nearing treeline, the trail passes an old mining cabin and switchbacks over a small ridge. From here, you’ll continue to follow the East Fork Crystal River uphill.
Location: 39.0396045, -107.0241231
Turn right at this junction near mile 4.2 and continue another mile to a backcountry camping area below West Maroon Pass. On Day 2, you’ll backtrack from the campsite to this junction and turn uphill for a side-trip to the base of Hasley Basin.
Location: 39.0414863, -107.0157838
Turn right off the trail (before reaching the junction with Frigid Air Pass Trail). This rugged valley is steeper as it continues toward the pass and the rolling meadow to your right is your best-bet for finding a campsite.
Location: 39.0387841, -107.0147627
A small glen, cradled by streaming river tributaries is a great campsite with outrageous views of Belleview Mountain. Use LNT principles, try to use established sites and plan to use camp stoves; there are no fires permitted in this area. On Day 2, backtrack to an out-and-back on the Hasley Basin Trail before continuing back to the trailhead.
Location: 39.0452527, -107.0315552
It’s a steep climb to a saddle at the edge of this wide basin where snow lingers until well into summer. Look for signs of wildlife–including mountain lions–which make homes in this area. This out-and-back section of trail rises 1,200 feet in about 1.2 miles so expect a slow pace as you continue above 12,000 feet.
Location: 39.0485856, -107.0366514
This route veers right off the trail from the saddle at the base of Hasley Basin for a short, steep climb. The top of the rocky knob offers jaw-gaping views of the Hasley Basin, the Elk Mountains, the Maroon Bells, and the East Fork basin. From here, backtrack toward the trailhead.
Location: 39.0114478, -107.0406532
Aptly-named Emerald Lake shimmers below the trail and Schofield Pass.
Location: 39.0247517, -107.0485067
A cold ford of the Crystal River. If you hike in early spring and summer come prepared for stream crossings you won’t see other times of the year.
Location: 39.0391197, -107.0143032
Looking toward Frigid Air Pass from the campsite below West Maroon Pass.
Location: 39.0439861, -107.0301819
The wide, shallow basin high above the Crystal River has snow most of the year. This shot shows hiker (and mountain lion) tracks across the field.
Location: 39.0462526, -107.0336151
Scaling a snowfield just below the head of Hasley Basin. This south-facing slope may have snow well into the summer.
Location: 39.0495605, -107.035042
A view of the verdant Hasley Basin from the knob that marks this route’s end.
Location: 39.0493188, -107.0349884
A Hasley Basin view of the Maroon Bells.