A few of our events are listed below. To become a member of Chaos and start attending events, please join our Meetup Group!
This classic 26.6-mile backpacking circuit around the spectacular Maroon Bells climbs over four 12,000-ft. passes (West Maroon - 12,500 ft.; Frigid Air - 12,415 ft.; Trail Rider - 12,420 ft.; Buckskin - 12,500 ft.) and travels through some of the finest scenery in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Along the way the popular route through the rugged high peaks of the Elk Mountains traverses gorgeous meadows decorated with wildflowers, visits beautiful alpine lakes and wanders through scenic forest.
Length: 28 miles round-trip (45.1 km)
Trail Use: Moderate
Beginning Elevation: 9,580 feet (2920 m) Highest Elevation: 12,500 feet (3810 m)
USGS Map(s): Maroon Bells; Snowmass Mtn.
DAY/BACKPACKING OVERVIEW: An ambitious backpacking trip located in the beautiful Maroon Bells/
Snowmass Wilderness that is routed over four mountain passes (West Maroon - 12,500 ft.; Frigid Air - 12,415 ft.;
Trail Rider - 12,420 ft.; Buckskin - 12,500 ft.). The variety of terrain encompasses scenic forests, mid to late
summer wildflowers, challenging river crossings, and provides spectacular views of the Maroon Bells and
numerous other peaks of the Elk Mountain Range. When camping in the Wilderness, campsites must be
located 100 feet from any body of water or trail or at a designated campsite. Start your hike early as
thunderstorms are common on the passes in early afternoon. Wading rivers or streams in early summer
can be treacherous. Sandals or boat shoes are strongly recommended. Wading barefoot can be
extremely dangerous. Be sure to unbuckle your pack when navigating any stream crossing.
ACCESS: Drive 1/2 mile west of Aspen on Highway 82 to the Roundabout . Go around the Roundabout and
turn right onto Maroon Creek Road. Drive 9-1/2 miles on Maroon Creek Road to the overnight parking lot just
below Maroon Lake. This is located on the left side of the road. Access to this lot after 8:30 AM requires a stop at
the Forest Service Entrance Station on Maroon Creek Road for an overnight pass. If the lot is full you may drive
1/4 mile down the road to the West Maroon Portal parking lot.
NARRATIVE: Use the trail guide for West Maroon Trail to West Maroon Pass until you reach the pass. From the
top of the pass a series of switchbacks descends from a steep scree field into meadows of magnificent
wildflowers before the trail reaches the valley floor. A scattering of campsites can be found on shelves during this
descent. A mile below the pass the trail intersects with the Frigid Air Pass Trail. Go right.
The trail continues through a valley of wildflowers and ascends steeply for about 1 mile toward a series of
ridges. Frigid Air Pass can be seen through a gap just past the ridges. The trail continues straight to a broad saddle leading to Hasley Basin. After passing a small pond it turns right and ascends a steep incline. A trail sign marks this turn. The pass is reached through a series of very steep switchbacks. From the pass Fravert Basin can be seen as well as the back side of the Maroon Bells. The descent from the pass is via a series of steep switchbacks which lead into a more gradual descent through wildflowers and alpine scrub. As the trail enters a spruce forest, it begins another steep descent toward the North Fork of the Crystal River. As the trail follows the river through the spruce forest, good campsites can be found. Remember to camp 100 feet from both the stream and the trail. About 1-1/2 miles farther the trail begins a series of steep switchbacks following the rapidly falling stream which becomes a magnificent waterfall when it enters the gorge. In another mile the trail branches just after a small clearing. The left fork leads to camping at the Love's Cabin area. The Four Pass Loop Trail, although poorly defined, turns right and heads toward the North Fork of the Crystal River. After crossing the Fork, continue for 3/4 of a mile into a spruce forest. As you leave the woods take the right fork marked by a sign and head toward Trail Rider Pass. The trail ascends steeply through open meadows and aspen for 1-1/2 miles then reaches a stream where it forks to the right. The left fork goes to Geneva Lake. Follow the trail crossing the stream several times then ascending to the top of a ridge on the right. From here, the trail wends around a small lake and the pass is clearly visible. After reaching Trail Rider Pass, Snowmass Lake can be seen
The trail descends to the lake switchbacking through alpine meadows to the ridge above the lake. Follow the trail which continues to descend to the east side of the lake. At the far end of the lake a trail intersection goes left to the campsites. Continue straight and immediately cross a small stream. About 200 yards ahead is the intersection for the Maroon-Snowmass Trail. The trail heads right, toward Buckskin Pass, by descending through a forest then into a meadow where the back of the Maroon Bells can be
seen. Soon the trail crosses Snowmass Creek. Stay on the main trail which bears left and steadily ascends, steeply switchbacking, up to the top of a ridge. About 1-1/2 miles after the Snowmass Creek crossing, the trail crosses two small streams at timberline. This may be a good place to camp as campsites are not available until after crossing Buckskin Pass and entering Minnehaha Gulch. Buckskin Pass can be seen on the ridge to the left of the large boulders. The trail ascends switchbacking through an alpine meadow. The final ascent to the ridge is via a very long switchback. The ridge offers spectacular views of
Snowmass Mountain, Snowmass Lake, Capitol Peak and Mt. Daly. Buckskin Pass is just ahead.
As the trail crosses the pass, Pyramid Peak and Maroon Bells (on the right) can be seen. The trail descends through a series of steep switchbacks to the alpine meadow below. Follow the trail through the meadows until it reaches a trail sign for the Maroon-Snowmass/Willow Lake Trail junction. Take the right fork. Continue through the meadow for about 1/2 of a mile to enter Minnehaha Gulch. Camping can be
found here and is prohibited in the alpine meadow. Follow the trail which descends steeply through the gulch where it crosses a stream about 1/2 of a mile further. The trail continues to descend steeply through the gulch, enters a spruce forest and eventually a stand of aspen trees. Upon entering the aspen forest, Crater Lake will be visible to the right. Continue on the trail to where it intersects with the West Maroon Trail at a Forest Service bulletin board. Take the left fork continuing on the Maroon-Snowmass Trail for 1-
3/4 miles to Maroon Lake and the end of a grand adventure.
Thursday Night: Drive to maroon lake trailhead (about 4.5 hours).
Camp near trailhead.
Friday Day 1: west maroon lake trailhead to fravert basin
9580 - 11,100 ft. (west maroon pass: 12,490 ft., frigid air pass: 12,394 ft.)
*Mileage: 10 miles
*Days Elevation Gain: 3,554 ft.
*Camp near Fravent Basin
Saturday Day 2: fravert basin to snowmass lake
11,100 - 10,980 ft. (trail rider pass: 12,414 ft.)
*Mileage: 9 miles
*Days Elevation Gain: 1,314 ft.
*Camp near Snowmass Lake
Sunday Day 3: snowmass lake to west maroon lake trailhead 10,980 - 9580 ft. (buckskin pass: 12,462 ft.)
*Mileage: 7 miles
*Days Elevation Gain: 1,482 ft.
Bring Bear Canisters
Some stream crossings
ANOTHER OPTION: 4 DAYS
Are you interested in descending more advanced canyons? Adding more tools to your canyoneering toolbox? If so, I'm hosting an Advanced Canyoneering / ACE-Level 2 course starting on Saturday July 22. It's a full weekend hands-on course designed to increase your confidence in the concepts and skills needed to descend Advanced Canyons (Class 4) safely. Here's a link with more info, and where you can RSVP:
(Note: You will need to RSVP for the class thru the URL above / on Canyoneering Colorado; not here on Boulder CHAOS - as there is a fee for the course - $395, and I need to keep track of all attendees in one place.)
If you want to know more about what is taught in each of the classes, you can check out this link:
Feel free to ask any questions, and hope to see you there!
(Some background: I've been canyoneering for over 10 years, and have descended over 1,100 canyons; including many explorations. For the past several years, as canyoneering has gotten more popular, there have been many accidents that could have been easily avoided; so I started a local canyoneering school to try to help keep people safe. Previously, the closest training was Moab...)
Join us for this interesting little hike past the ruins of The Old Crags hotel and some scenic lookouts over Eldorado Canyon: perhaps we'll see some climbers along the way!
The hike is roughly 3 miles and vertical gain, around 1000'
Just to be sure, BRING A HEADLAMP and WATER
Stunning Eldorado Canyon State Park!
An overview map of our route
Are you interested in learning about the emerging sport of Canyoneering? Join us on Thursday 7/27 at 7pm and A.J. Pastula will take you on a tour through some beautifully sculpted passages, carved deep into the Earth over millions of years. Discussions will include details about the different areas and aspects of canyoneering. Learn about some of the specialized gear; and how it differs from climbing. Find out about some of the challenges, techniques, and dangers involved in exploring these magical places.
Please RSVP here:
What is Canyoneering?
Why do we Canyoneer?
Canyon Types – Wet and Dry
Where can we Canyoneer?
When can we Canyoneer?
Canyon Gear – Different than climbing?
It's free to attend, and there will be an optional gear raffle with all proceeds supporting Grand Staircase Escalante Partners who are working hard to protect the monument - http://gsenm.org/
Hope to see you there!
CHAOS is an informal, Boulder-based group of energetic, fun, non-competitive, backcountry enthusiasts who are in their 20s, 30s and 40's, and who enjoy self-powered and self-organized activities including hiking, backpacking, biking, snow shoeing, skiing, mountaineering, and river sports. CHAOS' Main Goal is to be a community through which one can make life-long friendships, share backcountry trips, expand outdoor and leadership skills, appreciate nature and enjoy the sense of community, teamwork, and challenge that prospers in backcountry situations.
CHAOS TRIPS - All trips should be for CHAOS by CHAOS, outdoors, and self powered. CHAOS actively encourages its members to organize trips but does not supervise the activities. CHAOS is not a guide service and a person should only go on trips they feel are at their ability level. If you have questions, ask the trip organizer! Many trip organizers love to help out new members and will gladly answer any questions you have about the trip, what equipment to bring, etc. Above all else, have fun and be safe!
Many past and present members believe that CHAOS enormously improved their "young adulthood and pre-family" phase of life. To ensure that this wonderful opportunity remains for future members, they should be in their 20s, 30s or 40's when they join CHAOS. If the member's ages or the group's style don't feel like a good fit for you, we suggest you check out one of the other great clubs in Boulder like the Flatirons Ski Club , the Boulder Outdoor Group , the Colorado Mountain Club , the Boulder Nordic Ski Club , the Sierra Club , or the C.U. Hiking Club (office in UMC).