TR: From Crested Butte to Aspen – West Maroon Pass

(Last Updated On: July 11, 2017)

From a bird’s eye view, Crested Butte is only about 20 miles away from Aspen. But, we have some of Colorado’s tallest peaks and the massive Maroon Bells Wilderness separating us. As a result, we must bypass around the mountains. So a drive to Aspen takes 2 and a half hours in the summer – that’s when Kebler Pass is open. In winter, the bypass is even longer, taking closer to 3 or 3.5 hours. Biking isn’t much easier. The shortest route is via Pearl Pass (Frank and I rode this back in 2010), which is still nearly 40 miles, much of it very rough terrain.

Then, there’s hiking. There are two popular ways- East Maroon Pass and West Maroon Pass. East Maroon is considerably longer and can have great views. But, no one can deny that West Maroon takes the cake. It’s beauty is stunning. So, when my family decided to visit in late July / early August this year, I put West Maroon to Aspen on the list of things we were going to do.

Wanting to avoid storms, we got an early start. Frank drove us to Schofield Park.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

The gang – me, Barb (family friend), and my parents, ready for the 12 mile hike to Aspen.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

We left the trailhead just after 7 am and enjoyed some of the wildflowers in the forest. Cow Parsnip.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Chiming Bells.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

A Sawleaf Senecio, in the aster family. (Thanks Dara for helping me identify!)
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

The forest is beautiful but doesn’t last long. Very quickly, we emerged in the high alpine East Fork valley.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Dad hiking, looking down valley.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

We enjoyed the fuscia-colored fields of fireweed.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

The lupine was great too.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

And the flowers just kept getting better and better.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Fringed Gentian.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

But so did the views! Looking down valley toward Purple, Treasury, Treasure, and North Pole Basin.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Looking toward Devil’s Rockpile.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

The characteristic rocks that signify we are close to the top of West Maroon pass.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Looking south (back down valley) from the top of West Maroon pass.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

At the top, we finally caught a view of the north side. Pyramid loomed in the distance.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

South Maroon.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

I love it here.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

We still had miles to go. So we didn’t stay long at the top.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Where are we going? Down valley to the bottom of that mountain with the pointy top (Sievers). Maroon Lake stands near the base of this peak.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

We hugged the north side of the Maroon Bells. This is the entrance to the Bell Chord and the South Maroon climb.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

The north and east face of North Maroon.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

As we neared the Maroon Lake trailhead, the trails became more and more crowded, especially after passing through Crater Lake. The trails also became increasingly rockier. A view of the Bells from Crater Lake.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Finally, we caught a glimpse of our destination – Maroon Lake.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Exiting Wilderness.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

Close-up view of Sievers.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

No trip to Maroon Lake is complete without this classic picture of the Bells – one of the most photographed natural features in the country.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

The Maroon Lakes trailhead has a few things going for it. On one hand, it’s crowded. This can be somewhat annoying if you’re not used to it. But, it’s great to see loads of people getting out and enjoying one of the most beautiful areas in this world. Along with the crowds comes the problems parking. Because of this, during peak hours, a shuttle runs between Aspen Highlands and Maroon Lake. This made our life easy. We got on the shuttle to the Highlands and then took another bus into Aspen. An hour after arriving at the trailhead we were enjoying beverages at Aspen Brewing Company.
Hiking West Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen

We spent the afternoon walking around Aspen and soaking in the scene, waiting for Frank to arrive by car to join us for dinner, and then drive back to Crested Butte!

Thanks to my parents for joining me on this fantastic hike, and to Frank for making it logistically possible!


Want to do this hike yourself?

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  • During July, August and sometimes parts of early September, it is best to get an early start to avoid usual afternoon thunderstorms
  • This is intended to be a summer hike. If hiking in June or early July (or even mid to late fall) you may want to check the status of snow coverage on the trail. Contact the Aspen Ranger District. You can also check out trail conditions updates posted by Maroon Bells Shuttles.
  • Be aware of the “snow plug” on the Schofield Pass road before Schofield Park (from Crested Butte). Throughout the winter, there is a natural avalanche path near Emerald Lake and snow stays in this path for a long time. Sometimes it does not melt out until mid to late July, making driving to Schofield Park difficult. The walk from the snow plug can easily be done by foot if needed, but it adds on close to 2 miles to your walking distance. Contact the Aspen Ranger District, check out road conditions updates posted by Maroon Bells Shuttles, or contact Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle for road conditions (see below).
  • Instead of having someone pick you up in Aspen, you could spend the night and return via East Maroon Pass the next day
  • Want a ride back to Crested Butte but don’t have one? See if you can get one with Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle.
  • Need a ride to the Schofield Park trailhead near Crested Butte? Or from the trailhead (hiking in reverse)? Again, call Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle
  • Prefer to have your own car waiting for you at either end of your journey? Check out Maroon Bells Shuttles
  • The Maroon Bells bus does not run all hours and may not be running during “off-season”. For bus info click here.
  • If you are hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte, the shuttle may not leave early enough for you to use it. You may need to find alternate transportation to Maroon Lake. Consider arranging a taxi if you don’t have a car.

Get the gear you need for your hike!

Summary
TR: From Crested Butte to Aspen - West Maroon Pass
Article Name
TR: From Crested Butte to Aspen - West Maroon Pass
Description
Want to hike between Crested Butte and Aspen? See what it's like to do this beautiful tour via West Maroon Pass and then get the information you need to do this hike yourself!
Author

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

Latest posts by Brittany Walker Konsella (see all)

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

9 thoughts on “TR: From Crested Butte to Aspen – West Maroon Pass

  • June 2, 2016 at 11:09 am
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    While researching doing the West Maroon hike with my family this summer, I came across your blog and a picture of my friend and former colleague at Lakewood High School, Terry Walker! Thanks for the tips!

    Tim Rinehart

  • June 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm
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    Glad you found us Tim!

  • June 14, 2018 at 1:24 pm
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    Hey Brittany, Thanks for the great info!

    I’m hoping you might be able to answer a couple of questions: Does anyone do this trip as a backpacking hike and take a tent? If so, is there a good half-way point to camp? Or do most people just do it in one fell swoop?

    I’m thinking of coming in mid-late September…is that generally a decent time to do the hike?

    Thanks so much!

  • June 20, 2018 at 7:17 pm
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    Hi Megan! Most people do this hike in a day, but you can certainly do it as an overnight if you prefer. Since it is not the standard, there is no standard place to camp. But, you’ll certainly find areas along the way.

    If you want to camp, I’d actually suggest taking the East Maroon Pass to Aspen instead. Camping at Copper Lake is serene! You’ll love it! You can also do the hike between the two by going through Conundrum Hot Springs, camping there. When you camp in Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness, bear canisters are required and camping permits too. Details can be found here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whiteriver/recarea/?recid=81118

    Mid to late September is often a great time to do the hike. However, it can also snow, especially by late September. But, it would be worth trying for that time period for sure!

  • July 4, 2018 at 10:00 am
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    Thanks! We’re now looking at just doing it one-way, in one day. The shuttles seem so expensive, though, upwards of $600. What service did you use and what do you recommend?

  • July 5, 2018 at 9:54 pm
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    Hi Megan! Where are you seeing shuttles being higher than $600? The services we recommend are at the end of the article! Hope you find one that fits!

  • July 5, 2018 at 10:00 pm
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    This was the price quoted to me by Dolly’s for a ride from the ending trailhead back to the start. And yet I see much lower prices referenced on blogs and tourism websites but I have no idea how anyone accesses these rates.

  • July 5, 2018 at 10:05 pm
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    $600 for one person?

  • July 5, 2018 at 10:13 pm
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    No, for a van, regardless of number of passengers. We have three people so that’s a bit prohibitive even if we split it.

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