Snowmass Lake, Maroon Snowmass Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Snowmass Lake - 17.0 miles
Maroon Snowmass Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||17.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,580' - 10,980' (12,462' max elevation on Buckskin Pass)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,400' net elevation gain (+4,785' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Snowmass Lake - 17.0 Miles Round-Trip
Snowmass Lake is located 8.5 miles from Maroon Lake in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It lies at treeline in a massive cirque framed by Snowmass Peak (13,619’), Hagerman Peak (13,841’) and Snowmass Mountain (14,092’). It’s among the largest alpine lakes in the Wilderness, and one of many highlights on the 4-Pass Loop.
Snowmass Lake is accessible from either end of the 16.8-mile Maroon Snowmass Trail; the following description begins at Maroon Lake and scales Buckskin Pass (12,462’), the more popular and arguably most scenic route.
This travel corridor sees heavy traffic so expect crowds, honor campfire restrictions and reduce impact by staying on trails, using established sites and leaving no trace of your visit:
The trail begins on the north side of Maroon Lake to the Scenic Loop split (.3 miles). It rises away into thick aspens that break across an open rock field on the valley floor (1.2 miles : 10,070’).
The Maroon Snowmass Trail steepens over Crater Lake and bends NW up Minnehaha Gulch. Enjoy great morning light on the Bells and Sleeping Sexton on this rapid and rugged climb.
The trail crosses a rocky stream channel (2.95 miles : 11,030’) to a meadow, then funnels up a shallow gulch that opens over treeline (3.45 miles : 11,480). Note camping is not permitted in these meadows. Buckskin Pass is now in sight, and Willow Pass is concealed in the upper valley.
The trail resumes a steep, sinuous course to the Willow Lake Trail split (3.8 miles : 11,745’), where it breaks NW on a twisting path up flower-covered slopes to Buckskin Pass (4.6 miles : 12,462’).
Buckskin Pass spans a divisive ridge between Minnehaha Gulch (east) and the Snowmass Creek drainage (west). Views are terrific with room to maneuver and examine distinct rock types of the Elk Range. Scan nearby ridges for mountain goat, which are common in this area. Snowmass Lake is now visible with a bird’s eye view of the long route leading to it.
The trail drops NW from the pass on more moderate grades back into treeline (5.9 miles : 11,575’). Scenery enjoyed from the pass is now lost on a business-like descent to a wide, marshy section of Snowmass Creek. It reaches the far-end of this oxbow-cut space and turns sharply left on a bridge over the creek (7.25 miles : 10,860’).
It skirts the opening and rises on switchbacks into thick timber, undulating to consecutive splits for Geneva Lake (8.28 and 8.38 miles). A map is useful here, as you now have options for reaching the lake or skipping it altogether. Follow signs in each case to Snowmass Lake (8.5 miles : 10,980’).
The lake is nearly .75 miles long and several hundred yards wide, with iconic peaks and vertical walls framing the west side. The east side is ringed by patchy forest and easier to explore. Backpackers seeking privacy should consider backtracking, or continuing north on the Maroon Snowmass Trail to nice sites just below the basin.
ONE-WAY ELEVATION PROFILE | TRAIL MAP
- N39 05.911 W106 56.452 — 0.0 miles : Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead
- N39 05.886 W106 56.761 — 0.3 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 05.261 W106 58.423 — 2.3 miles : Steep, winding climb up Minnehaha Gulch
- N39 05.614 W106 58.697 — 2.95 miles : Cross left over rocky stream channel
- N39 05.690 W106 58.894 — 3.2 miles : Steep climb over treeline into meadows
- N39 06.016 W106 59.098 — 3.8 miles : Buckskin Pass - Willow Lake Trail split
- N39 06.109 W106 59.554 — 4.6 miles : Buckskin Pass | Begin descent to lake
- N39 06.176 W106 59.683 — 5.1 miles : Winding descent through alpine meadows
- N39 06.333 W107 00.154 — 5.8 miles : Approach treeline
- N39 06.584 W107 00.500 — 6.3 miles : Transition into high subalpine forest
- N39 06.417 W107 00.597 — 6.8 miles : Travel moderates in thick forest
- N39 06.533 W107 00.914 — 7.25 miles : Cross bridge (left) over Snowmass Creek
- N39 06.711 W107 01.219 — 7.75 miles : Undulating travel toward lake basin
- N39 07.033 W107 01.584 — 8.28 miles : First split for Snowmass Lake
- N39 07.000 W107 01.700 — 8.38 miles : Snowmass Lake - Geneva Lake Trail split
- N39 07.024 W107 01.832 — 8.5 miles : Snowmass Lake (10,980')
- For strong dayhikers or backpackers seeking a more secluded experience, consider Willow Lake. Willow Lake is located off the popular 4-Pass Loop circuit, and sees coniderably less traffic past the Buckskin Pass split. Click here for details.
- Bears are active on the Maroon Snowmass Trail corridor. Store food securely.
- The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has six peaks higher than 14,000' and nine passes higher than 12,000' - most of which are accessible from this trail network.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- 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.
- Bear Canisters are now required for overnight backcountry stays in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).
- Camping is not permitted in the alpine meadows on either side of Buckskin Pass. Camping is permitted in Minnehaha Gulch, and about two miles west of the pass beginning at treeline.
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Snowmass 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 trail, lake or stream. Additional 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 is permitted at Maroon Lake, Crater Lake, Snowmass 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 Snowmass Lake.
- Camping is not permitted in the alpine meadows on either side of Buckskin Pass. Camping is permitted in Minnehaha Gulch (east of pass), and about two miles west of the pass beginning at treeline.
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.
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