Electric Pass, Cathedral Lake Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Electric Pass - 9.3 miles
Cathedral Lake Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||9.3 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||9,880' - 13,485' (@ Electric Pass)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,605' net elevation gain (+3,693' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Electric Pass - 9.3 Miles Round-Trip
Electric Pass (13,485') is located 4.65 miles from Cathedral Lake Trailhead in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It's considered the highest named pass accessible by trail in Colorado.
Though ominously named for its exposure to lightning, it's no more susceptible than any other point at this elevation. The route shares the first 2.3 miles with Cathedral Lake, then breaks off on a methodical climb to the rim of a massive cirque that leads precariously on to the pass.
The Electric Pass Trail is well conceived with long, sweeping switchbacks on relatively mild terrain. Views are among the best in the Aspen area, rivaled by wildflowers on vast alpine slopes between Cathedral Lake and the pass:
The trail rises quickly through tall aspen stands to the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness (.72 miles : 10,425'), where the forest opens across rockslides above the Pine Creek gorge.
After gaining 820' in the first mile, travel eases on a long open arc with great views up valley (1.5 miles : 11,160'). It crosses a scree field (2.05 miles : 11,555') to a short section of steep switchbacks to the Electric Pass Trail split (2.3 miles : 11,780').
The trail breaks north into thick willow and clears treeline with Cathedral Lake in sight the rest of the way. Note social trails that branch off down toward the lake on this stretch; keep right at each, and consider them on the return hike for a shortcut to Cathedral Lake.
The trail runs up the side of a moraine into meadows at the base of the cirque, where elongated switchbacks begin their way up the NE wall (2.85 miles : 12,160').
Switchbacks shorten up to a saddle that can be mistaken for the pass (4.25 miles : 13,160'). The saddle is a great place to rest and take in views (south) of the route leading to this point, and north over the Devaney Creek drainage, which feeds American Lake. Leahy Peak (13,322') is located east along the saddle, an interesting and non-technical side trip.
The trail rises west above the saddle on a tightly wound path that devolves into a faint track across a steep slope with loose and highly unstable scree. Tread carefully on this final run to Electric Pass (4.65 miles : 13,465'), located on a small notch in the cirque wall.
Peer NW down Conundrum Creek Valley, and across to Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, Snowmass Mountain and a line of distinguished red and white peaks in the heart of the Elk Range.
Cathedral Peak (13,943') caps the cirque rim and is seemingly just a frisbee toss away, but technical and unreliable terrain separates the pass from it, as well potential routes that would lead down to surrounding drainages. A short scrambling route continues up to Electric Peak (13,635').
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N39 02.568 W106 48.493 — 0.0 miles : Cathedral Lake Trailhead
- N39 02.373 W106 49.050 — .72 miles : Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Boundary
- N39 02.284 W106 49.350 — 1.0 miles : Travel gradually moderates across open slopes
- N39 02.123 W106 49.684 — 1.5 miles : Begin long, level arc across north valley wall
- N39 02.041 W106 50.101 — 2.0 miles : Cross scree field and begin very steep switchbacks
- N39 01.968 W106 50.295 — 2.3 miles : Electric Pass Trail split
- N39 02.081 W106 50.597 — 2.8 miles : Trace moraine into the meadows
- N39 02.262 W106 50.518 — 3.3 miles : Long, steady switchbacks
- N39 02.537 W106 50.682 — 3.8 miles : Switchbacks shorten on east cirque wall
- N39 02.605 W106 50.697 — 4.0 miles : Cross 13,000' mark
- N39 02.741 W106 50.860 — 4.25 miles : Saddle over Devaney Creek drainage (13,160')
- N39 02.786 W106 51.281 — 4.65 miles : Electric Pass (13,465')
- Much of this trail travels over treeline on exposed ridges and slopes. Get an early start to avoid thunderstorms. Always check weather and trail conditions in advance.
- This is a popular trail that sees heavy traffic on summer weekends. Parking is limited and spaces fill quickly. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
- Campfires are restricted at Cathedral Lake. There's good camping terrain where fires are permitted between the 2.3 mile split for Electric Pass and the 2.58 mile creek crossing.
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.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Cathedral Lake. Stoves only. Fires are permitted .25 miles below treeline.
- 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. 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 Cathedral Lake and along Pine Creek 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 restricted at Cathedral Lake. Stoves only. Fires are permitted .25 miles below treeline. See Camping and Backpacking for more details.
Directions to Trailhead
The Cathedral Lake Trailhead is located off of Castle Creek Road south of Aspen CO. From the roundabout 1 mile NW of town, take Castle Creek Road 12.1 miles south to the turnoff for Cathedral Lake. A dirt road continues .45 miles to the trailhead. When clear the road is passable by 2WD cars, but high clearance is recommended.
Castle Creek Road is winding and narrow in places. Anticipate the turnoff, and be considerate of cyclists sharing the road.
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