| Four Pass Loop with optional Snowmass
Four Pass Loop
After dragging my friend up and down several 14ers, he suggested payback by joining him on a backpacking trip. After a bit of research, we settled on the Four Pass Loop. The details are below, it was a great, but tiring trip. A few bits of advice up front, then pics and details
- There are tons of mosquitoes at camp. Either bring spray, or plan on spending time in the tent
- To be down from the passes before any afternoon storms, we found ourselves at camp between 2-4pm, so plenty of downtime in the afternoon/evening. Bring a book or something
- There were a ton of campsites between Snowmass Lake and Buckskin Pass. If you want to avoid the crowds at Snowmass Lake, pressing on a bit should be fine.
- The double pass first day was long, but seemed reasonable. It would seem to be too easy to stop short of Maroon Pass on day 1, but it did require an early start.
Day 1 – Maroon Lake to Fravert Basin (11.4 miles & 8.5 hrs including breaks)
Depart Maroon Lake: 7:30am
West Maroon Pass: 12:30pm
Frigid Air Pass: 2:00 pm
Camp below falls: 4:00 pm
Here we are fresh at the trailhead. Note that I had gear strapped to my pack. There are a lot of willows to bash, a fully contained pack would probably be better.
I didn’t get a picture of the first stream crossing, but it was crossable by some creative rock hopping (I was about 50 feet upstream of the true crossing. This is the second; we couldn’t find a dry way across, so water shoes on. This guy carried a bunch of gear on a day hike; I think he was just playing around with the rope.
Not too far away from that creek crossing, finally able to see West Maroon Pass. A few easy snow crossings.
Looking back at the snow
Looking back on another easy snow crossing
Very near West Maroon Pass, looking back on the trail as it comes up out of the drainage. Mostly avoiding the snow.
Looking down from the pass at the final switchback, with a bit of snow to avoid.
Looking down the west side,
A bit after the junction with the Frigid Air Pass, looking up toward Point 12,648
Looking back from near Frigid Air Pass, showing the false trail to the saddle left of Point 12,648.
Looking back from Frigid Air, pretty steep up toward the top
And down the northern side, crossed some of these easy snowfields
Coming down the steep switchbacks next to the falls. Camped at the first spot below the falls.
Day 2 – Fravert Basin to Snowmass Lake (6.6 miles & 5 hrs including breaks)
Depart Fravert Basin: 9:00am
Trail Rider Pass: 12:00pm
Snowmass Lake: 2:00 pm
The river crossing in Fravert Basin; nice way to get alert shortly after leaving camp
The climb out of Fravert Basin was tough, probably the toughest on the loop for me. Here is a bit of the tough stuff above tree line
Looking up shortly afterward, still plenty of elevation to go
Finally near tree line, and some easy trail ahead. Trail Rider is the pass visible on the left of center
A little down the trail, still easy going
The last push up to Trail Rider Pass, not too difficult
Looking back from Trail Rider, across the easy basin
And down the Snowmass Lake side. Some of the snowfields that must be crossed
Across the upper basin, and coming down into the lake, some of the rocky, snowy, muddy spots
Probably the toughest spot on the loop for us, not that the snow traverse was steep, but the runout was rocky. Could probably have gone down and around.
Plenty of company at Snowmass Lake. We built in a rest day there, so we opted to camp near the lake (more crowds), but I could attempt Snowmass Mountain and Ryan could fish. Otherwise, probably would be wise to continue on the trail down toward Snowmass Creek.
Day 3 – “Rest Day” and climb of Snowmass Mountain
Day 4 –Snowmass Lake to Maroon Lake (8.0 miles & 5 hrs including breaks)
Depart Snowmass Lake: 6:30am
Buckskin Pass: 9:00am
Maroon Lake: 11:30 am
We departed camp early to try to get back to Aspen by lunchtime. A great bridge crosses Snowmass Creek
The climb up from Snowmass Creek wasn’t too bad. We got to tree line quickly. Here is looking back from a bit more than half way up.
As you get closer to Buckskin Pass, it looks like the trail is going to switchback up this gully.
But you get to enjoy a long switchback to the north, above tree line and with great views to the west. Very enjoyable stretch
Looking back on the long switchback, from just below the pass
From just above Buckskin Pass on the north, showing the cornice and the trail on both sides
And down the trail from the pass
After 3 days on the trail, we were cruising back to the car (with sore legs and hungry stomachs) We didn’t take many photos, but soon began to see day hikers, then Maroon Lake crowd, then the car. Perhaps the longest stretch was from Maroon Lake to the overnight lot.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):