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May05

How to hike from Aspen Snowmass to Crested Butte

As the crow flies, Aspen lies just a few miles north of Crested Butte, but to drive from one town to another requires about three hours in a car and 100+ miles. In the summer, traveling from Crested Butte to Aspen has become a popular day trip amongst hikers, and a phenomenal way to experience two of Colorado's quintessential towns, taking in some of best of the Colorado Rockies along the way. 

The trip

The hike is a bit more than 10 miles from one town to the other. In the summer, colorful wildflowers dot the trails and in the fall, aspen trees light up the mountainside with vibrant green, red, orange and yellow leaves.

Those who start in Aspen are in for about a 6-10 hour hike, depending on fitness levels and how many jaw dropping pictures are taken along the way. Elevation gain is roughly 3,200 feet. Travelers from Aspen should start at the Maroon Lake Trailhead (you may require a bus to reach the trailhead as the road closes to regular traffic between 9:00am and 5:00pm during the summer). Route finding is fairly easy, the West Maroon Trail weaves up and over West Maroon Pass where hikers will peak out at 12,490 feet in elevation. 

Hikers will enjoy astonishing views of the 14,000-plus-foot Maroon Bells (the most photographed mountains in Colorado), high alpine lakes and rivers, and vistas as far as the eye can see from atop West Maroon Pass. On the Crested Butte side, from atop Schofield Pass (past the parking lot finale), views descend down the valley toward the stunning peaks of Crested Butte.

Traveling from Crested Butte to Aspen is slightly less challenging as the elevation gain is about 1,000 feet less (starting at Schofield Pass gives hikers a leg up), therefore the time required for the hike is slightly quicker as well. 

The Maroon Bells in Aspen, ColoradoPhoto: Aspen Snowmass | Jeremy Swanson

What to bring

As with all high-elevation hikes, travelers should be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and bring extra layers, food and water. Trekking poles are suggested for steep declines, while hiking shoes and long pants protect ankles and legs. Much of the hike is exposed, so slather on that sunscreen and bring sunglasses and a hat. Rain jackets and/or windbreakers are also recommended. Last but not least, don’t forget your camera to capture some of Colorado's most iconic views.

Hiking in Crested Butte, ColoradoPhoto: Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Where to stay, how to shuttle

Car swaps with other hikers (a friendly post to Facebook can often find hikers traveling in the opposite direction) or car shuttles amongst friends are easy options to hike from town to town. For a fee (which is incrementally less the more people you have), Dolly's Mountain Shuttle will take hikers back to Aspen from trail's end at Schofield Pass. 

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