Triangle Pass, Conundrum Creek Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Triangle Pass - 21.0 miles
Conundrum Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||21.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,765' - 12,919' (12,919' max elevation @ Triangle Pass)|
|Elevation Change:||+4,154' net elevation gain (+4,845' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Triangle Pass - 21.0 Miles Round-Trip
Triangle Pass is located 10.5 miles from Conundrum Creek Trailhead in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It spans a small notch in the west valley wall above Conundrum Hot Springs, with terrific views and continuing passage to Crested Butte (Gothic), Copper Basin and East Maroon Pass.
While the Conundrum Creek Trail is among the most heavily traveled in Aspen, few continue two miles beyond the hot springs to the pass, which is removed from more popular backpacking routes such as the 4-Pass Loop and West Maroon Creek Trail to Crested Butte.
Triangle Pass offers comparable scenery without crowds. The hike in is distinguished by expansive meadows, aspen groves and moderate grades to the Hot Springs.
Travel steepens into the capacious upper valley topped by Cathedral Peak (13,943'), Conundrum Peak (14,022') and Castle Peak (14,265'), which share a similar geologic make-up and appearance to Maroon Bells (also visible from the pass). Visitors will enjoy miles of open valley travel and lightly used backpacking route options from Triangle Pass.
Important Camping Update: Conundrum Hot Springs will be transitioning to a permit-only system in 2018. All overnight users will be required to purchase and carry a permit when camping between Silver Dollar Pond and Triangle Pass.
Permits are available at recreation.gov.
See Camping, Rules & Regs and Worth Noting below for additional information on designated sites, bear canisters, fire restrictions, dog restrictions and travel tips:
The trail dips and rises across open space that funnels into conifer and aspen along the creek (1.0 miles : 8,970'). It emerges in a small meadow at 1.75 miles, then the first of several major meadows at 1.85 miles (9,240').
Travel is quick to a bridge leading to the west side of the creek (2.75 miles : 9,390'). The bridge is elevated and narrow - consider crossing in the water if slick or carrying a heavy pack. Mild grades continue across a second large meadow at 3.85 miles (9,550'), past which it steepens on rugged terrain above a deep gorge in the valley (4.5 miles).
The trail enters a third major meadow at 4.8 miles that stretches to a bridge leading east to the Silver Ponds (6.0 miles : 10,240'). Dogs are not permitted beyond this point.
The trail skirts marshy ponds to a marked creek ford back to the west side (6.55 miles : 10,320'). The ford can be voluminous at peak runoff, but is generally safe and easy. The trail opens across a talus field with your first clear view of the upper valley (7.2 miles : 10,455').
It steepens away in a cluttered forest to a sign on the hot springs perimeter (8.15 miles : 10,965'). Camping is only permitted in designated sites beyond this point, and fires are not permitted. There are several campsites just before this sign along the creek where fires are still permitted.
The trail hops a creek braid and opens past designated sites to the split for Conundrum Hot Springs and Triangle Pass (8.48 miles : 11,195'). The springs are just 100 yards away over the creek, and the main trail continues right past the last designated sites and clears treeline.
Here the valley truly opens with expanding views across the entire drainage. Grades steepen through willow mats that give way to rolling meadows. Scan this vast area for elk and goats as you go.
The trail climbs in short steep spurts with several deliberate bends toward the west valley wall (9.5 miles : 12,045'). There's a saddle on the valley headwall (due south) that appears to be your destination, but in fact that's Coffee Pot Pass.
The trail edges closer to the west wall before turning sharply up switchbacks across loose scree and till to Triangle Pass (10.5 miles : 12,919'). The pass is an unassuming col high on the valley wall, with panoramic views across Conundrum Valley. Maroon Bells and a line of peaks in the Elk Range can be seen to the north and west, where the trail tilts down a winding path to Copper Basin and on to Gothic north of Crested Butte.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N39 07.148 W106 51.366 — 0.0 miles : Conundrum Creek Trailhead
- N39 06.733 W106 51.497 — .5 miles : Dip and rise through open space in lower valley
- N39 06.349 W106 51.575 — 1.0 miles : Intervals of conifer and aspen along creek
- N39 05.717 W106 51.850 — 1.85 miles : Large meadow ringed by aspen
- N39 05.050 W106 52.148 — 2.75 miles : Cross bridge to west side of creek
- N39 04.547 W106 52.487 — 3.5 miles : Rise into large meadow
- N39 04.023 W106 52.838 — 4.25 miles : Trail steepens past meadow above gorge
- N39 03.580 W106 52.937 — 4.8 miles : Enter 2nd large meadow past creek crossing
- N39 03.004 W106 53.035 — 5.5 miles : Far end of meadow
- N39 02.622 W106 53.056 — 6.0 miles : Meadow dips to bridge leading to Silver Ponds
- N39 02.258 W106 53.046 — 6.55 miles : Ford Creek to west side
- N39 01.808 W106 53.127 — 7.2 miles : Valley opens across talus field
- N39 01.011 W106 53.374 — 8.15 miles : Sign for campsites and fire restrictions
- N39 00.754 W106 53.488 — 8.48 miles : Hot Springs - Triangle Pass Trail split
- N39 00.409 W106 53.781 — 9.0 miles : Steep climb past treeline
- N39 00.090 W106 54.043 — 9.5 miles : Moderate-steep climb thru alpine meadows
- N38 59.843 W106 54.272 — 10.0 miles : Bend toward west valley wall
- N38 59.679 W106 54.483 — 10.5 miles : Triangle Pass
- Trailhead parking is very limited and often full. Arrive early to secure a space. Overflow parking is available on Castle Creek Road, a little over one mile away. Be mindful of private property on the trailhead access road - cars will be ticketed and/or towed.
- There are several creek crossings on this trail - expect to get wet.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry Camping Permit Information for Conundrum Hot Springs and the Conundrum Creek Valley:
Overnight permits for the Conundrum Creek Valley are released according to the following schedule:
- Overnight permits for April 1 - July 31: 8a on February 15th
- Overnight permits for August 1 - November 30 are available at 8a on June 15th
- Overnight permits for December 1 - March 31 are available at 8a on October 15th
Once released, permits may be reserved online up to the day of the trip.
- The maximum length of stay from June 1-September 1 is three nights. There is a seven night maximum stay the rest of the year.
- A person is limited to two permits in a calendar year.
- 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).
- There are 16 designated sites in the Conundrum Hot Springs vicinity (first come, first served). The sites are clearly marked. Camping is not permitted elsewhere in this same area. If occupied, there are many sites down valley (and still very close).
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at the 16 designated sites in the Conundrum Hot Springs vicinity. Stoves only. Fire restriction lines are clearly marked and enforced.
- 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 along Conundrum Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Dogs are not permitted past the 6.0 mile bridge crossing that leads to the Silver Dollar Pond area. A sign clearly marks this point.
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted in the Conundrum Hot Springs vicinity. Stoves only. Signs clearly mark where backpackers must use designated sites that have fire restrictions. Illegal fires carry a $325+ fine. See Camping and Backpacking for more details.
- This trail is regularly patrolled by the forest service. Rules - especially campsite location, food storage, dog restrictions and fire restrictions - are strictly enforced.
Directions to Trailhead
The Conundrum Creek Trailhead is located off of Castle Creek Road south of Aspen CO.
From the roundabout 1 mile NW of town, take Castle Creek Road 4.8 miles south to Conundrum Creek Road. Bear right, then keep left on the dirt road for one mile to the trailhead. The road is narrow in places - be mindful of oncoming traffic. The road is graded and suitable for 2WD cars.
If the lot is full, use overflow parking on Castle Creek Road around the Conundrum Creek Road turnoff. This adds a one mile+ walk to the trailhead. Parking is strictly prohibited on private property that lines the trailhead access road. Ticketing and towing is enforced.
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