Posted: Feb 10, 2014 by Sam Szarka
Take a trip through knee-high wildflowers in one of Colorado’s best wildflower hikes in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen
I’d consider this hike to be at the top for wildflowers as well as alpine scenery. The West Maroon valley as well as the basin drained by the East Fork of the Crystal River find consistent winter snowfall and the perfect soil and summer climate conditions to produce profuse blooms of alpine wildflowers. Blooms of larkspur, columbine, pink, yellow and scarlet paintbrush, and other assorted flowers.
The West Maroon Pass Trail begins at the Maroon Lake and ends at Schofield Pass near Crested Butte. You can hike the trail in either direction.
Maroon Lake / West Maroon Portal – From Aspen, head north on Maroon Creek Road. In the summer months, between 9AM and 5PM, no motor vehicles are allowed past the ranger station on Maroon Creek Rd (but bicycles are exempt). During these times, park at the Aspen Highlands Resort on Maroon Creek Rd and take the shuttle bus to Maroon Lake. At other times you may drive to Maroon Lake, but be prepared to pay a fee at the forest service ranger station.
Schofield Pass – From Crested Butte, take Gothic Road 13 miles to Schofield Pass. Leaving the last stop sign on Hwy 135 heading north out of Crested Butte, the road curves right heading past the Crested Butte Cemetery. Continue on Gothic Road (County Rd 317) past the resort town of Mt. Crested Butte. At the top of the pass, stay right remaining on County Rd 317. Travel one mile to the West Maroon Trailhead on the right.
Start at the Maroon Lake trailhead. At Crater Lake (a large lake just over a mile in), continue on W. Maroon Pass trail as it follows the shore line into intermittent willow thickets and pockets of dense forest. You will need to cross W. Maroon Creek numerous times before you top out at the top of 12,500 ft. West Maroon Pass. Enjoy the views from the pass, then descend the west side of the pass and enter an area that explodes with wildflowers most years during the last weeks of July into August. Continue the descent on West Maroon trail to the Schofield Park trailhead. Hitch a ride to Crested Butte from Schofield Pass, or have a friend pick you up.
You must begin your hike early. During summer, heavy rains caused by dangerous lightning producing thunderstorms occur nearly every day. Start early and avoid exposed high places after 11AM, especially when dark clouds are present. For more information about lightning danger and how to deal with storms in the backcountry, see the Colorado Backpacking Guide.
Maroon Bells Wilderness
The area traversed by the West Maroon Trail is part of the Maroon Bells Snowmass wilderness. A free wilderness permit is required (located at the trailhead) for those staying overnight in the backcountry. Please abide by all of the posted wilderness regulations, including keeping dogs leashed and camping only in designated (marked) campsites 100 ft. from lakes and streams.