Maroon Snowmass Trail to North Fork Crystal River Loop

HARD 85 reviews

Maroon Snowmass Trail to North Fork Crystal River Loop is a 25.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Aspen, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
25.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
7732 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dog friendly

backpacking

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

snow

Absolutely amazing multi-day trail. Counterclockwise direction is recommended but not required. This hike is not for the novice. Very punishing, but infinitely more rewarding.

backpacking
3 months ago

10/10. Loved every step of this trail. I suggest counter clockwise. The climb up trail raider from clockwise direction looked miserable. Glad I was going down!

backpacking
4 months ago

Second time on this loop in September with friends. Campsites were crowded around Snowmass Lake. Pics from the trip: https://www.flickr.com/photos/geoffreydgraham/albums/72157688773204146

backpacking
4 months ago

First backpacking trip this past September and fell in love! Elevation was no joke but a little bit of training beforehand and you’ll be alright. Views are amazing!

backpacking
6 months ago

My girlfriend and I completed this trail in 4 days in early July, 2017. It was her first backpacking experience. Much of the trail was still covered with snow pack, we used crampons on a couple traverses and used ice axes to glissade down from two of the passes. We were hoping to summit Snowmass Mountain, but decided it was too much for a first time backpacker. The only bugs we encountered were immediately surrounding Snowmass lake. We saw no traces of bear. There were not many people on the trail when we were there, probably due to the amount of snow pack. Water was abundant and we never carried more than 2 quarts each. A few of the creeks were tough to cross without getting our feet wet, so I would recommend bringing sandals for the trip. The trip could easily be done in 3 full days, but add a fourth if you make a Snowmass Mountain summit attempt.

backpacking
6 months ago

Most epic backpacking trip I have ever done. Simply outstanding!

backpacking
7 months ago

Best hike of my life so far! Stunning. Very difficult. Very worth It!
We did it in 4 days and 3 nights.
We took too much food. There were plenty of spots to fill up water so I started carrying no more than 1.5 to 2 liters of water any given time.

7 months ago

Loved this hike. I'm coming back with more friends.

backpacking
8 months ago

Did the Four Pass Loop counter-clockwise over four days as a birthday present to myself. Pretty stunning way to celebrate 25 years. Hiked in 1.5 miles to Crater Lake the first night to get a jumpstart on the next day. Plenty of water along the trail (I carried 2L) - no bugs - gets cold at night so bring a 15º bag and pad with good r value. Favorite campsites were a grassy knoll below King Falls in Fravert Basin and the beaver pond 1 mile past Snowmass Lake. SM Lake is beautiful, and also very crowded (but that can provide some humor - I woke up to someone's dog pooping in my campsite). The Elks are teetering on the brink of winter - it snowed lightly every night, adding dramatic striations to the peaks. Even though it was the weekend I didn't find the trail to be overcrowded and was vaguely inspired to try running it sometime in the distant future.

8 months ago

The counter-clockwise trip on the 4 Pass Loop is fantastic. We did it in 3 days camping at Snowmass Lake the first night, and Crystal Falls the second night. 8 miles on the first and second days left about 12 miles and two passes on the final day. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But the final two passes aren't nearly as difficult on the third day leaving from Crystal Falls for a couple of reasons. First, you are lighter. After eating two days of food and figuring out that we don't need to start each day with a ton of water (there is plenty of water on this hike), we were much lighter. Also, Crystal Falls is at roughly 11,000' so the climb up Frigid Air Pass was only 1,500 feet or so. And in between Frigid Air and West Maroon Pass you only descend to 11,500ish feet so again, West Maroon Pass is not that bad of a 1,500 foot climb. The long gradual descent back down to Crater Lake makes the final 5 miles go by quickly. This was one of my all-time favorite hikes. There are stunning scenes at every glance. And if you go mid-week, the trails are relatively empty.

backpacking
8 months ago

8 months ago

Absolutely incredible. Did it as a 3 day/2 night loop. Came from sea level (Boston), acclimated for 4 days in Denver and doing day hikes at 8-12k in Boulder and RMNP and the elevation on this hike DESTROYED me. I am in pretty excellent physical shape, but this hike was absolutely brutal. Didn't suffer from elevation sickness per se (no headaches or nausea or vomiting), but the ascents up the to the passes are so steep, I was sucking wind the entire time. If I had to do it again or did it with less masochistic people, I would take 4 days/3 nights and do 1 pass a day. Also for the photographers, i think the lighting is generally better if you do the hike in a CCW loop - beginning with the buckskin pass.

hiking
8 months ago

This trail is one for your bucket list. There is so much stunning beauty in the scenery, I should have taken 7 or 8 days to enjoy it instead of 4. I was on the trail late one day (6:15pm) and saw the biggest black bear I've ever seen outside of a zoo. Fortunately, it was more afraid of me than I of him, and he bolted before I could get a pic.

backpacking
8 months ago

Stunning,
We hiked this 8/19-21st CW as a 3 day/2 night loop.

Difficulty: on the Moderate side of Hard
Day 1 - Aspen to Fravert Basin: 12 miles, 4K vert. This was the longest of our days but was such an incredible day. We started hiking around 06:45 (upper lot was 3/4 full at that time) and got to camp by 14:00.
Water: Plenty of places to filter water before W Maroon Pass, there are a couple of streams between WM and Frigid Air Pass.
Camping: Don't take the first few camp spots in Favert, hike .5 mile further and there are killer spots near the falls! Temps were mid 30's at night brr.
Day 2- Fravert to SM lake: 8 miles, 2400' vert. Trail rider pass is steep AF, what are switchbacks again? There is a false summit before popping over TR pass so keep that in mind. BUT holy crap, snowmass lake is stunning from the top!
Water: There is plenty of water along this pass so don't freak out.
Camping: cross the river and there are secluded spots by the falls (site 24). Temps were low 40's and felt comfy.
Day 3 - SM Lake to Trailhead: 9 miles 1800' vert. Ahhh switchbacks, this was one of the most mellow climbs of the loop and our favorite. We got a chance to see the solar eclipse on the top of buckskin. What a memorable experience! This was a bitter sweet day, we wished there was another few days to continue on the loop. The miles flew by!

A little on us: We hike 15 miles comfortably and live at altitude so this loop was not too challenging. A typical day hike includes 4-5k of vert @ 12-13K. Now this would be a different story if you live at sea level or come from the flatlands. Of note-- Take altitude serious I have had numerous friends come from sea-level and attempt this with near deadly outcomes (no joke one buddy spent 2 weeks in the ICU with HAPE / HACE). These mountains do not care about you and will beat you up if you are not acclimated! With that being said if you are in shape this trip is a must and STUNNING!

backpacking
8 months ago

Sound of music views..... beautiful!!!!

8 months ago

It was an adventure of my lifetime!! Truly mind-blowing! We started going towards West Maroon Pass first, and I think it was the easier route because of elevation gains/loses. It took us 4 solid days which we thoroughly enjoyed! We saw 3 bears before West Maroon Pass, another was creeping at our campsite after Frigid Air Pass. We didn't feel any danger of them, though. The trail was clear, except the stick of a sign to go RIGHT to Frigid Air Pass. We missed it (some people were standing in front of the stick sign--which is a dumb idea for others passing back, duh). We caught some trout at Snowmass Lake that I'm thankful for...mountain house gets old fast haha! Plenty of water sources along the trail, even in August! The last day was incredibly challenging and rewarding, so be physically prepared. I'm so glad I had plenty of Advil. Also, trekking poles are super helpful for balance on the step and narrow switchbacks, but they also take the weight off your knees. I packed light--highly recommend you do too! Be physically fit! Also, it was FREEZING at night for me... make sure you've got a great sleeping bag 20' comfort level was comfortable for me--I get chilled easy.

backpacking
8 months ago

My son and I are thinking we would like to try this loop backpacking. Sept. 6-8th We are in good shape but haven't done a 14er do you think this would be too difficult for a 1st timer? Does anyone know how the weather has been, and if there is any snow?

backpacking
9 months ago

Done clockwise and beautiful! Fair amount of people on the trail. I recommend you plan a day at snowmass lake if able; its beautiful and we were able to catch our dinner along the far edge of the lake. We went in Tuesday and came out on Saturday, pushing 5-8 miles per day and spending Friday at the lake. Many different beautiful views :)

backpacking
9 months ago

One of the most stunning hikes in Colorado. I went clockwise - West Maroon Pass -> Frigid Air Pass -> Trail Rider Pass -> Buckskin Pass. Was going to do it in 2 nights, but ended up completing the loop in one night. Camped at the top of the headwall about 1.3 miles down from Fravert Basin, beautiful views! Highly recommend this loop

backpacking
9 months ago

Went counterclockwise and loved it! Brought our pup and the rocks we're definitely hard on the paws, have booties just in case even if you think your pup is well seasoned! From the trailhead to West Maroon pass is the rockiest portion of the trail. Loved springing out of the tent at 4:30am and on the trail by 5:30 and had the whole trail to ourselves!

backpacking
9 months ago

Amazing! Best alpine meadows! Got very lucky with weather. I was truly sad when we were done. Wish I could stay on the trail longer. Fravert basin was enchanting but definitely chilly at night. Pack accordingly if you plan to camp. Recommend alternate footwear for water crossing. Hiking poles were helpful.

backpacking
9 months ago

Really enjoyed this trail. Went clockwise starting with West Maroon Pass and Frigid Air on Day 1. Very well marked so hardly any need for a map (or this app). Only downside is that it is very heavily trafficked. Thankfully that doesn't correspond to litter/trash being an issue. Also lots of mosquitoes so bring spray or appropriate clothing. Views and settings were spectacular. The dog leash rule is strictly enforced. I brought my pooch and had him off a few times. Other back packers gave me a piece of their unhappy mind on the matter. I also witnessed two other parties receive $130 tickets from a ranger for having dogs off leash. Would go again but probably would come in from Buckskin Pass and stay for a while at Snowmass Lake - a gorgeous spot.

backpacking
9 months ago

My wife and I completed this hike a few days ago and we both were exhilarated with how beautiful this place really is. Traversing 4 mountain passes with a 30-35 pound pack for 3 days is beyond exhausting and brutal (especially in the rain), but so worth it. Three river crossings, 8,000 feet of elevation gain, 3 lakes, thousands of wildflowers. DO IT! But be smart and do it in 4 days and 3 nights. We did it in 3 days and 2 nights and that kind of mileage was killer.

9 months ago

I did this a year ago starting from Aspen. I will start from
Schofield Pass this year. Reports of a lot of mud east of Maroon Pass. Snow plug near Emerald Lake will increase mileage by 2.5 mi. Quite a bit more snow this year due to late storm. Incredible hike. Wildflowers amazing. Be fit for this one!

9 months ago

It's as challenging as it is beautiful, worth every step. Buckskin Pass and Snowmass Lake were absolutely incredible. @jamesoutdoors

backpacking
9 months ago

Incredibly beautiful hike! We went in early October & the Aspen trees were golden yellow. There was plenty of water, even in the Fall. Some loose gravel in places, but was able to do it in trail runners. We used our poles a lot and were thankful to have them. I would recommend being physically fit for this loop.
Plenty of evidence of crowds from the weekend a mile or two in both directions from the trailhead. A lot of poop and even candy wrappers sticking out from under rocks...not fooling anyone!

backpacking
9 months ago

A relatively strenuous, but very rewarding loop. Try to start your day relatively early if you want to secure one of the better campsites along the route, as the good ones are usually taken by mid afternoon or so. Make sure you have a good mosquito repellent, or plan on wearing long sleeve's, pants, and hats, or hanging out in your tent to avoid them.(at least in July anyway, when we did this loop) There are many places to filter water along the route, so you generally don't have to have any more than a couple of liters on you. Snow was not a hindrance to us in the third week of July 2017, but poles may be useful to some at a few points, in particular at a snow covered boulder field when coming down to Snowmass lake. (when doing the route clockwise) The mosquitoes were quite tenacious at our campsite near Snowmass lake. No cellular service throughout the route. You will definitely encounter muddy conditions, and multiple creek crossings, so don't plan on keeping your feet dry all day, unless you bring water shoes specifically to change into at those points. (which takes up a lot of time) Bear canisters are required, as well as wilderness permits. (two tents per permit). There are decent trout fishing opportunities along the way, particularly on the second half of the loop, Snowmass lake probably being the best location to fish for your dinner. If you're looking for solitude, this is probably not your hike, as it is moderately trafficked, and you definitely won't feel like you're alone on the trail, be that good or bad. I met multiple park rangers along the route (mainly near Snowmass lake), that have to clean up SO much human feces every week it's shameful. Please dispose of your waste properly so those who follow can enjoy unpolluted campsites!

backpacking
9 months ago

Great trail with lots of climbing and beautiful scenery. Pack light if possible!

backpacking
10 months ago

Completed the entire loop. Didn't need snow spikes. Absolutely beautiful!!! I would recommend getting at the Trailhead very early to score a10$ spot in the overnight parking area, otherwise you have to shuttle in after 8am, could be pricy. Lots of people, but hey it's a bucket list type hike so enjoy and make some trail friends. Snowy in places, very muddy on West Maroon trail leading up to West Maroon Pass. Enjoy!

10 months ago

Went clockwise hitting west maroon pass first and was grateful we did! Still a good amount of snow patches and definitely needed my trekking poles. Important to mention that it is 26 miles from CRATER LAKE not the parking lot, which adds a total of six miles more if you're lucky enough to get parking there. This hike is beautiful! But must be prepared for all weather! We got hit in a hail storm going up trail rider pass and while we prepared for rain , hail was not a thought. That being said, the sights were amazing, the trail hardly trafficked after west maroon pass and it felt like we had the world to ourselves.

10 months ago

We just finished the loop in the CCW direction and I was really glad we did it that way. I believe it may actually be easier than the clockwise direction. We took our time to enjoy it and used six days. Totally beautiful and worth it. Lots of snow patches and mud so I was glad to have my ski poles and wouldn't do it without them. Lots of traffic from West Maroon Pass to Maroon Lake.

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