This popular 3-4 day backpacking loop around the stunningly beautiful Maroon Bells climbs four 12,000-ft. passes and traverses some of the most amazing scenery in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. (full description)
This classic 26.6-mile backpacking circuit around the spectacular Maroon Bells climbs over four 12,000-ft. passes (West Maroon - 12,500 ft.; Frigid Air - 12,415 ft.; Trail Rider - 12,420 ft.; Buckskin - 12,500 ft.) and travels through some of the finest scenery in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Along the way the popular route through the rugged high peaks of the Elk Mountains traverses gorgeous meadows decorated with wildflowers, visits beautiful alpine lakes and wanders through scenic forest.
Typically it takes three to four days to complete the challenging loop. The trip can be extended with side trips to Geneva Lake and Willow Pass or done at a more leisurely pace to allow time for exploration and relaxation amid the breathtaking scenery.
I recommend walking the loop in a clockwise direction. The trail up the West Maroon Valley is not as steep and therefore easier when carrying a full pack compared to the trail ascending Buckskin Pass. In my view this direction also saves the very best scenery last. This point can certainly be argued since the entire backpack is really quite spectacular.
It is best to wait until mid summer to attempt the trip. Early summer trips must contend with swift running rivers swollen with snowmelt and deep snow on the high passes. To avoid the crowds plan your trip for mid-week or in the early fall.
Overnight hikers in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness are now required to use IGBC approved bear proof food storage containers. For more information on the new food storage rules along with other regulations covering overnight trips in the wilderness see the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Regulations at the bottom of the trail details (description) page.
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