At less than 11 miles between trailheads, a hike from Aspen to Crested Butte (or the reverse) is one of the most memorable and popular trips taken at the peak of summer and early fall. Hiking time will vary depending on your fitness level and group size, but expect to spend at least 6 to 10 hours of the day accomplishing this feat. Plenty of food, water, clothing layers, and a first aid kit are highly recommended.
If you’re looking for lodging in Crested Butte, book your stay with the Nordic Inn, and they’ll help you coordinate your hike, including lodging in Aspen if you need!
Update 5/19/20: The snow plug below Emerald Lake is not passable yet. Vehicle access to the trailhead TBD.
|CB to Aspen||Aspen to CB|
|Highlights:||Aspen, Wildflowers, Mountain Vistas||Aspen, Wildflowers, Mountain Vistas|
|Length:||10.2 miles||10.2 miles|
|Approx. Time:||6-8 hours||7-9 hours|
|Elevation Gain:||2,357 feet||3,265 feet|
|Max Elevation:||12,490 feet||12,490 feet|
|Trailhead Elevation:||10,432 feet||9,572 feet|
|Travel Time to TH:||45 minutes||40 minutes|
Click photos to view gallery
From Crested Butte – West Maroon Trailhead: (SUV recommended): If you choose to drive, take Gothic Road (Route 135) north past the ski resort and over into the valley. Follow the road 14 miles (shortest route) from town past Emerald Lake and over Schofield Pass. Shortly after the pass, the well established parking lot and trailhead [A] is on the right side.
From Aspen – Maroon Lake Trailhead: The upper road to the trailhead is restricted to private vehicles from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during peak summer season except for disabled people, campers, families with young children in car seats, and outfitters. We recommend using the bus service. If you choose to drive, take route 82 west out of town. At the traffic circle take the 2nd exit onto Maroon Creek Rd (route 13) and continue up the road for 9.4 miles. The parking lot is just before Maroon Lake and tends to fill up for overnight parking in the summer.*
*Do not use Google or Map Quest as they may be inaccurate. Use textual driving instructions provided.
From the Crested Butte side, the trail starts off by winding through forest next to the Crystal River. A decaying cabin  is near the end of the forest. Just past the cabin is also where the trail forks. Bear right at the fork and enter the amazing fields of wildflowers. The next junction is nearly 2 miles ahead and hard to spot. Look for a short wooden sign underneath the brush  and take the right fork toward West Maroon Pass.
Continue up the valley ascending a gradual incline until you reach the next signed junction for Frigid Air Pass . West Maroon Pass is straight ahead. From here the trail gets steeper as you get closer to the pass . The last quarter mile is particularly strenuous, but the effort is well worth the reward. From the summit, enjoy breath-taking views in every direction. The pass is small with dramatic rock pinnacles on either side.
The trail descending to Aspen starts out very steep and narrow, with slippery areas along the side of the slope . The gradient gradually gets easier as elevation is lost, but most of the trail all the way to Maroon Lake, is very rocky. There are three crossings of Maroon Creek (your shoes/feet may get wet) as well. The narrow valley opens up again as you approach Crater Lake .
Walk past the base of Maroon and North Maroon Peak known as the Maroon Bells. These 14,000 ft peaks are the most photographed mountains in North America! The trail undulates as you approach and pass Crater Lake. The last stretch enters some aspen forest and finally exits at Maroon Lake. Turn around and take some of your own iconic photos .
For longer hikes its a good idea to carry a few extra things in your pack. Make sure to bring extra food and water, rain gear, a map or GPS, sun protection, and a flashlight in case your hike goes late. More information on what to pack can be found here.
Please don’t pick, cut, or walk on wildflowers or other plants. Removing wildflowers from the wild can adversely affect pollinators and other animals that depend on that species for food and cover, and can affect the flower's long-term survival in that location.
Since trash and human waste can take years to decompose in an alpine environment, be prepared to pack it out. Try to use outdoor restrooms at trailheads when possible (find them here), or dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep if no restrooms are nearby.
Weather in the mountains can change very fast. During the summer months it is common to have thunderstorms developing during the afternoon in the high country. Check the weather forecast before you go. Keep your eyes on the clouds and know when to turn back.
The Nordic Inn at Mt. Crested Butte is the perfect base camp for your hike between Crested Butte and Aspen. Let the Nordic Inn help you plan your journey by staying either at the beginning or end of your hike, by doing a full round trip after a night’s rest, or they can even arrange a scenic tour back by van to your starting point. Whatever experience or time frame you’re working with, the Nordic Inn can help assist in planning your adventure.
CLICK PHOTOS TO VIEW MULTI-SEASON GALLERY
Trail Map & Profile
Enjoying this trail? Help support the people who maintain it. Donate to the Crested Butte Conservation Corps
The Nordic Inn is the perfect base camp for Crested Butte adventure. Nestled near the base area of Mt. Crested Butte, this is an ideal spot for exploring the Gothic Valley, mountain biking at the resort, and its a short walk to the bus loop, so you can get to town without worrying about driving.