May 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm #1289987
Making my first trip to Colorado the first week of August to backpack the Four Pass Loop of Maroon Bells. Looking for some insight as to weather and thing's I should know as a flatlander heading west.May 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm #1878422
Just like the rest of the Rockies, you could get about any weather. Records low for Aug is about 20. More commonly near 40, but you could get snow or ice. Afternoon storms are fairly common.
If you don't know whether you acclimate well (or quickly), take it easy in Aspen for a couple days. The THs are over 9000'.
My trip report. I didn't do the std 4-pass loop, but did include 3 of the 4 passes in my trip.May 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm #1878432
I figured on anything from 35 degrees to 80 degrees and am attempting to plan for that. I will arrive in Denver on Sunday, drive to Aspen, then on Monday, hike to 10,800' to aclamize for the day. I had not had problems at 15,000' in the past, but that was 30 years ago. Don't plan on setting any land speed records, but intend to take it easy and take in all there is to see.May 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm #1878442
I'd encourage you to check out other areas like I did. You'll run into less people, too.
FWIW, I found the Sky Terrain map superior to the Trails Illustrated one.May 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm #1878729
I'm originally from Crested Butte, so I know the area pretty well.
Definitely check with local shops or condition reports. Weather and conditions should be very good that time of year. They had an awful winter for snow so the rivers will all be really low and easily cross-able. I've been in some hairy situations forging on west maroon pass in the spring. I would anticipate the weather to be at or below freezing at night if you are camping up high, otherwise in the high 30's. Days can be in the 80's but I would more expect mid 70's at best. Typically should be dry and any showers are normally daily afternoon ones that last a few hours and then dissipate.
As far as hiking, the distances and difficulty can be deceiving. Nothing like the cascades, but take the altitude into account. 10,000 – 12,000 can be very exhausting if you are never up that high.May 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm #1878781
Have ordered the Sky Terrain Map. Will look it over when it arrives.May 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm #1878783
I know altitude will be the key factor here. I used to live on the beach in Spain and would go to Switzerland to climb and hike. The 12,000 to 15,000 feet of altitude would really kick my butt. I expect the same here, but with 30 years of difference.Jul 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm #1897800
Am also in the planning stages for an August 4 pass. You flying into Aspen?Jul 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm #1897816
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
Driving from Denver — I'd recommend staying in Carbondale the night before. You can get a decent hotel room for much less than Aspen, plus it's close to several trailheads. For even less money, stay at one of the USFS campgrounds on Maroon Creek Road (reserve a spot on-line).Aug 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm #1899911
@harry-nLocale: Western US
Anyone heard anything definite about a bear canister requirement in the forests surrounding Aspen? I called Glenwood Springs and was told "yes" by the receptionist … but didn't feel she understood about backpacking vs. backcountry car sites. Checking the USDA's Aspen RD page (not the Maroon Bells wilderness site), I found this forest order dated 27 July 2012
Link:Aug 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm #1900170
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
I just did the 4 pass loop this week and as far as I know, there were no requirements to carry a bear canister in the backcountry. My last night was at Crater Lake, just 1.8 miles from the main trailhead and there was a bear hanging around there, so at least use your best bear bagging technique.Aug 5, 2012 at 6:41 am #1900330
@tunaboy999Locale: Mid Atlantic
How many nights are you out for? The 4-pass loop is good for 1-3 nights depending on your acclimation, ambition, and level of fitness.
Fortunately there are opportunities to extend it. I just completed the "7 pass loop" — basically a 42 mile figure 8 starting and ending at the East Snowmass trailhead. It included the 4 pass loop plus a second crossing of crossing Buckskin Pass, then Willow Pass, and an unnamed pass west of Willow.
As others have noted you will not find solitude, but it is a fantastic hike nonetheless. Enjoy!Aug 5, 2012 at 8:40 am #1900344
@harry-nLocale: Western US
Good question now that I've seen dondo's trip report. I did the traditional loop about 10 years ago but in constant rain. Like to do something a bit more UL at the expense of a little camp comfort . Big thing is the 11 hr drive for meAug 5, 2012 at 3:20 pm #1900428
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
HK, yeah, 11 hrs. is a long drive. On the other hand, you'll probably arrive after 5 pm, meaning that you can skip the bus and drive right to Maroon Lake. Crater Lake is only 1.8 miles from the trailhead, and the locals told me that the 11 designated sites are rarely all filled on weekdays. Anyway, it beats paying $$$ for a hotel room. As far as the loop itself, I didn't train at all, and did it in three days. But I live in mile high Denver. You certainly won't be bored if you take four. I didn't see any UL hikers out there, but there's
no reason you can't do it that way. My base weight was around 11# but I added three pounds of camera gear to that.Aug 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm #1901449
@nathanmLocale: Bay Area
I'm planning to head out there tomorrow, driving from Denver, to do the loop in two nights. I had initially planned on adding a summit of Snowmass Mount, but now plan to skip that. Happy to bring someone else along for the ride (or just give you a ride one way) if interested. I'd also appreciate any advice about conditions, etc. I plan to do this is as a lightweight, no-cook trip, but I'm bringing a dSLR. Weather forecast looks like manageable temps and moderate chance of afternoon/evening rain.Aug 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm #1906198
Heading out there first week of September so I figured I'd add my question to this thread.
NOAA local forecast for the Snowmass Lake area is calling for low temps still in the mid 40s through this upcoming week. I'll keep an eye on it for the following week but does anyone know if those low temps are fairly accurate for early September on this loop? Trying to decide whether a 20* bag is overkill or whether 35* plus layers will be sufficient.Aug 27, 2012 at 9:58 am #1906430
I'd take the 20. I've done it twice in mid-September. Last year it was cool and drizzly and the 35 would have been fine. The time before it dropped into the 20s with a howling wind.
I posted this in another thread but you may not have seen it. You don't have to take the shuttle into the park if you are backpacking. If you don't tell them at the entrance that you are, they'll send you back down the hill to take the shuttle. Have fun.Aug 27, 2012 at 3:58 pm #1906584
Great, thanks for the insight Randy. I also plan on taking your beverage recommendations from a while back and finding myself some Modus Hoperandi while I'm out there. Cheers!Aug 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm #1907713
Heading out for this trip this weekend, is there any difference in going clockwise or counterclockwise for the standard loop?
Rutherford, when you did the 42 mile 7 pass loop did you take both the "East Snowmass Trail" and the "Maroon Snowmass Trail" to make your figure eight? Which direction did you go?
Thanks, Hope everyone has a fantastic labor day weekend!Aug 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm #1907824
I think it's harder going counter clockwise. But you get the 2 tougher passes out of the way first. What's your plan? It will be plenty busy on a holiday weekend. I recommend starting early and making camp fairly early depending on where you are going to stay. Like going clockwise, most people try to get as close to Maroon Pass as they can and there aren't a lot of spots higher up. PM me if you want some detailed info.Sep 4, 2012 at 8:21 am #1908945
We ended up doing an extended loop, about 39 miles with 6 passes, and camped away from the crowds, amazing scenery, I can see why the loop is so popular.
Our route was counter-clockwise starting at the North trailhead of Maroon-Snowmass trail (outside Snowmass Village)up to Snowmass lake, we then picked up the regular loop and stayed just below Frigid Air Pass on night one, then up to Buckskin Pass, back down Buckskin, and over to Willow Lake for night two, then back to the car via East Snowmass trail and a short road walk.
If I did it again I would probably do a figure 8 loop or add in Geneva lake, we were finished in 2 1/2 days, will try to do a trip report on this loop.
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