Explore To Do - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

To Do Map
VIEW FULL MAP

Gorgeous views of the San Juans! You can see Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre from both summits. Traverse from Redcloud to Sunshine was relatively easy with a well defined trail. Had to summit Redcloud again to return and there were a few false summits on the way back but the traverse was one of the easier ones I’ve done. Only took about half an hour each way to traverse. The entire trail was pretty gradual which made it one of the easier fourteeners I’ve done. Nice thing about this one is you can get two done in a day easily. Tracker logged 11.5 miles with both peaks.

hiking
2 days ago

We were told by the bus driver that Crater Lake was a lot more dried up this year, and that was completely obvious once we saw the lake. I’m sure it would have been a lot more attractive if the water were higher. But pretty views throughout the hike! Saw a ton of families, so should be doable for most kiddos. And if you have a dog, they’ll probably enjoy cooling off in the lake at the top.

I’m physically active so I thought the trail itself was mostly easy, but we flew in from GA ~18 hours before the hike and I definitely felt some negative affects of the altitude adjustment. If you’re not used to high altitudes, bring plenty of water and remember to take deep breaths.

My first solo trip. Weather was perfect and the trail lived up to all my expectations. CLockwise and glad I did!

Bunch of knobs on the trail

The hike is great, lake is underwhelming. Views along the hike are awesome.

For those of us not used to the altitude (we are from GA) this was a pretty difficult hike on the way to Crater Lake. Mostly uphill and very rocky. Took about an hour hike to get to Crater Lake but the view was gorgeous! Plan on packing a lunch or snacks and taking in the view—and a short rest! Definitely want to get there early as it gets very crowded on the narrow, rocky trail as the day progresses. We got to Highlands at about 8:15 to take the bus up to Maroon Bells. Go early—very popular destination! Bring lots of water too.

We arrived to start the loop on Saturday morning at 5:30 am. Were greeted with overnight lot full sign. There were two parking spots in the overflow area just before the overnight lot. When we walked thru the overnight lot, there was one open spot. When we returned on Tuesday both of those parking areas were full. You might have to check out the other overflow parking area to find a parking spot.
We did the loop CW to West Maroon pass first. We did this because one hiker was not acclimated, and this direction is not as steep. The valley was crowded with hikers and runners up to the pass. The camp sites between West Maroon and Frigid Air are about 1/4 mile off the trail in the trees. There is a stream for water between the trail and campsites.
Thunderstorm started at 6 pm and rained and sleeted for a couple of hours. Intermittent rain thru the night. Only about 800 ft elevation change from camp to Frigid Air pass, a 100 yard section was steep and slick from the rain, so it was a relatively easy morning hike. 2100 ft elevation change downhill into the next valley.
We camped just after the intersection with the Geneva lake trail. Several nice camp sites in the area and water is close at the river.
Third day was a tough one. First 2170 ft elevation change up to Trail Rider pass. 1700 ft elevation change down into the Snowmass lake area. Then 800 ft elevation change up to our next campsite. The area was dry due to the summer conditions, so a lot of streams were dried up. There is water in Snowmass lake but we didn't need water at the time. We didn't really want to pull water out of the swamp, though the beaver dam was busted and it was flowing. At the campsites halfway up to Buckskin pass, there were two good streams for water.
Fourth day another roughly 800 ft elevation change to Buckskin pass, then close to 3000 ft downhill to the parking lot.
Outside of the main valley the trail was not crowded. Beautiful flowers, lakes and mountain scenery. Lots of animals, pikas, marmots, deer and a mountain goat guarding Buckskin pass.
Doing the trail in the CW direction was right of us, so the unacclimated hiker was able to make it. But it does make the last half of the hike the hard section. If you are a flatlander and live at low elevation like me, I do recommend spending a 3 or 4 days to acclimate before doing high altitude hiking.

7 days ago

Did this yesterday. Excellent hike. A relatively easy 14er, but a moderate hike. Past peak wildflowers.

on Crater Lake Trail

hiking
7 days ago

I found the low level of the lake and the dirty water to be a little underwhelming. The view of the surrounding mountains is very nice, as is the aspen forest on the way in.

Pretty neat!

hiking
8 days ago

Nice hike. Easy 14er, but a moderate hike. Past peak flowers, but nice views.

Doing this loop at the end of the week and was wondering if bear canisters were required.

Did it CCW......Was a very hard brutal and at times scary climb to a couple of the passes. Fridge Air was steep as hell and very loose rock for this 67 year old man we had great weather not sure I could do it in rough weather wind and rain you know...would slide right off. 4 days 3 night .....but loved it and may do it again CW

hiking
10 days ago

Go early to beat the crowds and dress in layers.

hiking
12 days ago

I really liked this trail. We were on it by 8:30 on a Friday and had it to ourselves. Beautiful area. Peaceful without people around.

hiking
14 days ago

Amazing views at Maroon Lake (starting point) and at Crater Lake! I found this to be more easy to moderate...the moderate being due to the higher elevation and all the rocks. The rocks are no joke. I rolled my ankle a few times in hiking shoes...wished I had full on boots. There are really only a couple patches without rocks, so be prepared for that. We started around 11:45 on a Wednesday in July and it was still super busy. Come early to enjoy the peace and quiet. Took us about 2hrs round trip, plus about 30 minutes of lounging at Crater Lake.

One of my favorite places! The wildflowers are so good. Pretty easy hiking but super busy.

hiking
14 days ago

Easy hike, beautiful views. Tons of wildflowers. The lake was really pretty and a welcome sight for the pups. If you have 4wd, follow the road up to the highest parking lot.

hiking
15 days ago

Beautiful hike! Made it to the upper parking lot in my Ford Escape but it was definitely a little sketchy at times. I would recommend driving a car that has a little more clearance than mine. I would rate this hike as an easy to moderate hike. One of the most scenic hikes I've ever done and the dogs handled it really well!

This was my first solo backpacking trip. I completed the loop counterclockwise, and I did it in three days. It was challenging but so beautiful. This trail includes wildflowers, lakes, and everything in between. If you are new to backpacking, I would recommend only doing part of the loop versus the whole thing. You can still see some beautiful scenery!

Amazing trail. Challenging with gorgeous scenery. Be sure to arrive at your campsite early enough to grab a good spot. Some spots like The Basin and Snowmass Lake filled up quickly.

This is one of my favorite hikes. The trail is a bit busy on weekends but worth it!! Kid and dog friendly but watch your footing because it gets a bit rocky!

Great hike and doable with young children. Bug spray is helpful walking through the woods. A lot of loose rocks along the path so tread carefully. If you’re planning to go on a weekend and want to avoid taking the bus, plan to arrive well before 8am. We reached around 7:50am and the lot was already full and closed.

hiking
18 days ago

Great trip! We got there at 5:45, parked, got our gear and hit Maroon lake about 6:15am. Stopped to take pictures then started our hike to Crater Lake. Very rocky, but so worth the trip. Got up to Crater Lake about 7:20am, sat around and watched a momma duck and her ducklings swim around the lake when some dips&*t had his dog unleashed. Dog went after the ducks, while owner laughed. A bunch of us started yelling at him and about 2-3 minutes later had the dog on a leash (sadly we ran into them about 2 miles up the trail past the lake and the dog was off leash again). Our hiking goal wasn’t to go much further, but we did venture up another mile and half.

We turned around and started back down. Got back to Crater Lake and took a break to see the bells in a later (11:00am) light. Started our trip back down and it was busier than Cherry Creek Mall at Christmas!! You can tell when the buses drop people off. About every 15 minutes there would be a new wave of tourists heading up to the lake with a camelback, no food, no protection, and their poodle (on leash) struggling to get up and over the rocks.

Got to our car and headed down the mountain. We hit 82 and started to head west and about a minute later got dumped on. Our thoughts were with all of those people hiking with nothing to protect them from the elements.

Would I do this again? Yes, during the week, after Labor Day, and at 5:30am.

Read this to learn everything you need to know about this loop.

FYI:
This trail is also known as the "Four Pass Loop".
No pictures do it justice.
I've uploaded images of the the map that I bought for this loop in the photos section of this trail.

I backpacked this trail back I'm July of 2017. This is widely accepted as a 3 day 2 night loop, but I did it in 2 days and 1 night. I am not an ultra marathon runner or anything either, and I come from a low elevation state. I'm just in the best shape I can be in. This was my first multi-night backpacking trip ever, and I could not have asked for a more epic and beautiful experience!!!

This trail consists of:

》《4 challenging, yet beautiful mountain passes.
(hence the alternative name "Four Pass Loop")
》《2 waterfalls.
》《A marsh.
》《360° views.
》《lush forests.
》《deep valleys.
》《ice crossings.
》《wildlife sighting opportunities.
》《beautiful lakes.
》《winding rivers.
....It pretty much has everything. No joke.

What to know:

1. You need trekking poles, and you need to be comfy with using them IF you've not done an ice crossing before. There is a crossing that people in the years prior to us have had to do, that we had to do, and it is shortly after Trail Rider Pass/while you're heading to Snowmass Lake.

2. If you're coming from the midwest or lowland areas (Indiana, Ohio, etc.) you need to spend as much time as possible day hiking other small trails around the area. anything 12k feet and up to acclimate yourself. The altitude change made me nauseas when I did day hikes before the actual FPL, so I'm glad I got that out of the way and got a feel for it.

3. Know how to setup your gear quickly and correctly! If you haven't been in the mountains before (specifically the west) you need to be aware that in the summer, it is considered "monsoon season" and there are ALWAYS storms after noon. These storms can be light rains or they can be heavy downpours with hail and lightening. Knowing your gear will keep you happy and dry in the tent during the nonsense! :)

3. Don't cross mountain passes during storms. Learn how to read clouds for storms (as best you humanly can).

4. Visit the Ute Mountaineer local outfitter in Aspen for a GOOD map ("Sky Terrain Trail Map" of Crested Butte Maroon Bells) to get an accurate map that includes the loop. Nobody else has an actual map of the loop!!!

5. You're not supposed to... but you can drive up to Snowmass Wilderness and get a campsite to sleep near the elevation of the loop instead of paying for an expensive hotel or motel. The campsites are GORGEOUS.

6. There is water everywhere this time of year on the trail. It's a mountain loop, so.... lol

7. Visit Aspen post hike. There is good food and lots of culture there.



10/10 loop/hike. Can't recommend it enough. Subscribe to my YouTube channel "Uriah Graves" to see a quick video of all this for more info in the next few days.

hiking
22 days ago

Nice trail to get a look at the Bells and Pyramid from the bottom! Lots of biting flies-so remember your bug spray
Pleasant way to spend the morning.

hiking
22 days ago

Nice moderate hike. I didn’t know the road to West Portal was closed to public traffic from 8am-5pm. You pay to park at the Highlands. Buy a bus ticket $8 adults, $6 kids and take a bus up. We had a lovely singing bus driver who pointed out many nice features along the way. At the West portal bus drop off, water and restrooms available. The short walk to Maroon Lake had nice views. We started our hike to Crater Lake about 3:30. It took about an hour to get there. We hussled back to catch the last bus at 5:00 and missed it by 10 min. (Due to hiking with kids). My husband hitch a ride back down and drove back up to get us. After 5, pull up to the bus route to pick up where you were dropped off, or take the lower public parking down by the lake.
It was a long day since we hiked at the Grottos in the morning. Totally worth it!

hiking
24 days ago

CRATER LAKE/MAROON BELLS AREA. Late start arriving (230pm) put me on high alert to get back in time to catch last shuttle bus out! I pledged to turn around 330pm no matter what. Moving at a good pace with trekking poles for me in scree field where I could see lake from distance. I look at my quick photos I snapped and marvel at “this is not even enhanced!”

Would allow for more time! I was able to hoof it back, take time to put my feet in the icy waters of the lake/river and catch the 440pm bus.

An afternoon perfectly spent!

My dad and I hiked this trail in one day (16 hours) from sun up to sun down. We are some novice hikers from IN, but eager for a physical challenge. After a first day of trial and error bringing a tent, and 2 large sleeping bags plus other necessities, we learned we’ll never see this whole trail with such luggage. Rested up the next day and took off at 5am on day #3 with one backpack that my dad carried, coming back to the car at 9:30pm. So worth it!! But quite dangerous if you’re not prepared to fill up on water every chance you get. Felt like I was hit by a truck after finishing, but couldn’t ask for better scenery and more of a challenge! God speed! #worthit

First backpacking trip in CO and it didn’t disappoint! Wildflowers, lakes, wildlife - this trail has it all! Next time I’d plan for 3-4 days for a less rushed pace to enjoy it more. Highly recommend!

Load More