Crater Lake, Maroon Snowmass Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Crater Lake - 3.6 miles

Maroon Snowmass Trailhead

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Round-Trip Length: 3.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,580' - 10,076' (10,175' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +496' net elevation gain (+705' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Crater Lake - 3.6 Miles Round-Trip

Crater Lake is located 1.8 miles from Maroon Lake in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Crater Lake formed as glaciers retreated and left flat, open spaces where water collected in a process called glacial benching. Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Both Maroon and Crater lakes contain notably high nutrient levels, which contributes to algae growth that creates a unique blue-green hue. Brook, rainbow and brown trout naturally occur in these lakes and their tributaries (Maroon Lake is stocked and also contains Colorado River cutthroat).

This short but scenic hike is ideal for families or those with limited time. Visitors will enjoy mild grades, abundant wildflowers and great fishing on the hike to Crater Lake:

The Maroon Snowmass Trail begins on a level path up the north side of Maroon Lake to the Scenic Loop split (.3 miles). It continues above the inlet area into thick aspens that break across an open rock field on the valley floor (1.2 miles : 10,070’).

Pick your way through talus back into the forest, where it crests and drops to the West Maroon Creek Trail split (1.7 miles : 10,110’). Bear left to Crater Lake (1.8 miles : 10,076').

The West Maroon Creek Trail levels around the north shore to the open outlet area before steepening up-valley. This wide area is cut by lazy oxbows of West Maroon Creek, and is worth exploring. The trail continues on to West Maroon Pass, part of the venerable 4-Pass Loop and most popular thru-hike route to Crested Butte.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 05.911 W106 56.452 — 0.0 miles : Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead
  • N39 05.886 W106 56.761 — .3 miles : Split for Maroon Lake Scenic Loop
  • N39 05.576 W106 57.373 — 1.0 miles : Trail rises up north side of West Maroon Creek
  • N39 05.327 W106 57.962 — 1.7 miles : Crater Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trail split
  • N39 05.244 W106 57.956 — 1.8 miles : Crater Lake (10,076')

Worth Noting

  • Moose inhabit the Maroon Lake - Crater Lake corridor. Keep a respectful, safe distance when viewing wildlife.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).

  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Crater Lake.

  • Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream. Location-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Maroon Lake, Crater Lake, Willow Lake and along all related streams with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Crater Lake.

Directions to Trailhead

The Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead is located 9.2 miles west of Highway 82 on Maroon Creek Road. From Highway 82 in Aspen, follow the roundabout 1 mile NW of town onto Maroon Creek Road. Follow Maroon Creek Road to all designated parking lots. Call 970.925.3445 with specific questions about seasonal road access and shuttle schedules:

  • There's a $10 fee to access the Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead by car. The Welcome Station is located 4.7 miles up Maroon Creek Road. Use the self-pay station just past the Welcome Station if no attendant is on duty.
  • Access by car is limited in the summer from 7am - 9am, and 5pm - 7pm. Visitors from 9am - 5pm must park at Aspen Highlands Village Parking Lot and take the Shuttle Bus to the trailhead. This parking area is located approximately 2 miles up Maroon Creek Road and is well-marked.
  • Road access restrictions do not apply to overnight backpackers. Backpackers must pay the fee, but can proceed to the overnight parking lot and bypass the shuttle.
  • There's a $6 fee to take the shuttle from Aspen Highlands Village ($3 on select weekdays). The shuttle operates everyday from mid-June to Labor Day.
  • After Labor Day, the road is open to all cars Mon-Thurs; restrictions only apply Friday-Sunday. The shuttle runs Friday-Sunday as described above.
  • Cars with infants (children under 2) and handicap plates are exempt from road restrictions, year round. The $10 access fee still applies.

Contact Information

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Trail condition update: moderate - deep snow drifts about .75 miles from Crater Lake. Expect postholing. Snowshoes not necessary but good to have. Hikers have improvised routes that favor drier, south facing slopes where possible. The lake is partially frozen and trail around it is mostly snow free. Maroon Creek Road and Maroon Lake are snow free (though rain/snow mix on 5/17 may have accumulated)."
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: May 17, 2015


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