Like I said, nothing could have stopped me from completing this hike. Not John being unable to join, not my pack weighing entirely too much, and not even my mental game getting me down and nearly causing me to quit. More on that later. This hike was extremely important to me, and I am so proud to have completed it.
Watch my entire hour-long documentation of our remarkable trip in my YouTube video below:
Before we started the hike, we did a lot of preparing. Fortunately, my girlfriend planned out our entire route and the logistics of the hike itself which left me only having to pack my own gear and food.
To read about my entire packing process including my pack, first aide kit, and homemade dehydrated meals on my Camping Gear blog page here!
There were a few other trails we could have started from including trails from Snowmass and Marble, but they were many more miles long than the route we chose. Starting in Crested Butte only added three miles each way or 6 miles total.
Checkout this super awesome topographic trail map video I found on Aspen Trail Finders! This is not the route we followed. Instead we started at The West Maroon Trail and went clockwise, I still felt it was cool enough to share though.
Once my backpack was fully packed, I hit the road to meet everyone at the trailhead. It was over a five hour drive from Denver to the West Maroon Trailhead. Everyone arrived late at night, slept in our cars, and woke up early to eat a good breakfast and start the trail as soon as we could.
Day One: West Maroon TH over Frigid Air Pass
We could tell things would be a bit different from here on out. The trail became more rocky, and the color of the rocks changed to a deep red. Everything was different than the West Maroon trail we had been on earlier. We could see miles ahead to where we needed to go, but it was gradual, so it wasn’t too daunting.
Frigid Air Pass:
Frigid Air Pass wasn’t the most difficult, but none of the four passes would be easy. I didn’t know this yet. At this point, my friends had gotten quite a far distance ahead of me. I could still see them, but they were pretty much at the top of the pass while I was taking a break and just about ready to start from the bottom.
We had plenty of time before the sun went down to cook dinner, set up our tents, and sit around the campfire for a little while!
Day Two: Trailrider Pass to Snowmass Lake
(Miles 7.5 -15)
We got a bit of a later start than anticipated, and were ready to go at 9 a.m. Our second day on the trail would be all-around wonderful. The trail was fairly gradual at the start, and we had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for the steepness of the second pass.
Just like the day before, my friends got way ahead of me hiking up the trail. They, again, were waiting for me at the top of the pass. This time, we could see down onto Snowmass Lake when we hiked over the pass, and it was remarkable.
I couldn’t believe how different the view was from this pass compared to the last. As beautiful as the view was, I didn’t sit there to enjoy it long. I knew we would continue to have the view for the entire hike down the mountain’s face, so we quickly started hiking again.
Where the trip took a turn...
I walked down to Snowmass Lake right as the sun was starting to set. I probably had about 20 or 30 minutes before the sun went behind the mountains. It gave me enough time to cook dinner, filter water, and find a campsite.
Snowmass Lake requires camping in designated areas which made finding a place to camp a bit difficult. Luckily, a nice group made room for me and my friend who had not yet arrived.
Day Three: Buckskin Pass to Crater Lake
(Miles 15 - 24)
Our alarms went off at 5:00 a.m. sharp, and we were instantly up and moving. We wanted to meet up with the couple camping one and a half miles down the trail before they took off, so we were hiking by 6:30.
We hit the trail without any breakfast to rush to our friends, and this lead to a not-so-great morning.
The first portion of our day was a climb over Buckskin Pass. This was another 2,000 foot climb in less than two miles. It was incredibly difficult. This part of the trail was the most difficult for me. I struggled very much. I cannot deny that I wanted to quit.
I lost my mental stronghold...
I made it over the pass and felt great by the time I reached the top. It felt like I could keep hiking the rest of the day, so I did not give up. I did not quit, and I kept pushing to Crater Lake after a nice, long stop.
My one girlfriend, who I had met at Snowmass Lake the night before, hiked out and took the shuttle. That was always her plan. She only joined for the one night, because she lives in the area and can do the rest of the trail any other time.
We said goodbye, and the couple and I kept going around the lake. Although I was feeling great, this turned out to be another rough portion of our trip.
We took a wrong turn...
When we made it back down, we regrouped and established a goal that we would try to reach to make camp. My friends went on ahead at their much faster pace, and I planned to meet them there.
When I got to the point on the map where I was supposed to meet my friends, nearly an hour after I had last seen them, I started calling out their names, and they came running. They had just found camp and were coming down the trail to help me. We embraced and quickly unloaded my gear at camp. We ate, hung our bear bags, and went to bed before 8:00 p.m.
Day Four: West Maroon Pass to Crested Butte
This last morning, we woke up with a completely different attitude than we’d had on any other day, because we only had a few miles to go. Plus, we knew what the second half of the trail held in store for us. We packed up, quickly made it up the valley in which we were camping, and approached West Maroon Pass.
It was an emotional journey. The last few miles back to my car felt like a blur. I couldn’t stop thinking about how humbled I felt to be trekking by myself and rounding out the last few miles of a 30 mile hike.
When I arrived back at the trailhead, I cried some more.
Most were tears of happiness and disbelief, but I was also sad, because my friends had driven into town.
See more from my other backpacking trips:
Camping inside The Great Sand Dunes National Park
My First Solo Backpacking Trip in Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Hi Taylor, thanks for all the information. I am about to do this loop so it's great to know what to expect. Do you have to register to park at West Maroon Trailhead? It did not sound like it in your blog but just wanted to confirm.
If you mean like make a reservation or have to do anything to park there, no! That’s the whole reason we started from this side instead of the Aspen side. It is much less of a hassle! I do believe we self registered once we started the trail (like sign a trail guest book) but I don’t quiet remember.
Yes that is what I meant so perfect! We could not get a parking reservation for the Aspen side so when we found this trailhead we thought it was the same thing but could not find anything telling us one way or the other. Thank you for responding.
You are very welcome! Enjoy your hike :)
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Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read.