Conundrum Hot Springs Backpacking

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A mere 15 minutes from downtown Aspen, in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, Conundrum Creek Trail offers one of the most unique overnight backpacking trips in the country, with stunning mountain scenery and the chance to soak in a natural hot springs pool.

Written by

Leah Fielding


17.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

8.8 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

2 days

Two days (roundtrip)


Summer and Fall

Dog Friendly




A mere 15 minutes from the heart of downtown Aspen, Conundrum Creek Trail is an 8.5-mile trek that combines jaw-dropping mountain scenery, overnight backcountry camping, and the opportunity to soak in warm natural hot springs at the end of the hike.

Update February 2018:

Kate Jerman, Public Affairs Officer of White River National Forest, reached out with an update on Conundrum Hot Springs for 2018.

"Starting in April of 2018, Conundrum Hot Springs will be transitioning to an overnight permit/reservation system. All overnight users will be required to purchase a permit prior to their visit and they will also be required to carry a permit during their stay in the Conundrum Hot Springs area (the area between Silver Dollar Pond and Triangle Pass). Permits are available at This is by far the most popular trail in our forest and in the area, so we want to reach as many people as possible with the new info."

For more information, including maps, please visit the Conundrum Hot Springs website.

What Makes It Great

Conundrum Creek Trail is situated in the Maroon Bells Wilderness area up Castle Creek Road and offers craggy views of Castle, Conundrum, and Cathedral Peaks. The Conundrum Creek Trail climbs 2,500 feet over 8.5 miles, making it a mostly moderate hike in, with just a few notably steep sections sprinkled along the way.

From the parking lot, follow the trail as it climbs out of the valley to snake over rolling grassy hills, through dense evergreen forests, and across short scattered scree fields and wide open expanses.

Expect three noticeable creek crossings: the first at 2.5 miles, the second at six miles across a bridge and the third at 6.5 miles, which requires a ford straight through the creek. A final short, rocky ascent brings you to the pools overlooking Conundrum Creek Valley.

The views along Conundrum Creek are superb. Even before you reach the steaming waters of Conundrum Hot Springs, thick, shady groves of towering Aspen’s give way to sprawling grassy meadows of wildflowers.

Expect to share the popular, clothing optional pools with fellow backpackers staying at the 18 campsites scattered around the hot springs. Relax in the soothing, hot water, which hovers at a comfortable 102 degrees, before setting out to find camp.

To help alleviate overcrowding, which often occurs, a one-night stay is suggested. During holidays, usage is particularly heavy. Camping around the springs is permitted only at the 18 designated sites. Most of these sites are located in the woods .25 miles in various directions around the hot springs.

Be prepared for inclement weather (storms roll in quickly over the mountains), no cell service, and plenty of photo opportunities. Plan to start early in the day or aim for a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds and heat in the exposed meadows. Carry enough food and water for the roundtrip or bring a filter.

Who is Going to Love It

The Conundrum Hot Springs backpacking trip is great for anyone looking for a moderately difficult hike with a well-maintained trail, nice campsites, and plenty of gorgeous mountain scenery typical for the area.

But it's perhaps younger, sociable, millennial adventurers that will love this trail the most. On any given arrival to the hot springs, there will be anywhere from five to thirty-five other like-minded people soaking in the thermal springs. And while this has caused some overcrowding issues over the years, it also makes for one of the more social backcountry experiences you can find anywhere. Some people will be naked. Some people will be drinking whiskey or beer. Most everybody will be friendly and for the most part pretty interesting.

Just be sure that you, your traveling companions, and any new acquaintances you might meet are following Leave No Trace principles, as this destination has been trashed by some inconsiderate backpackers over the years. Do not be one of these bad apples!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

This trail is popular and well-marked, meaning it’s nearly impossible to get lost. It also means it’s nearly always packed during summer weekends, as it's high elevation forces seasonal use (roughly May through October pending snow pack). From the roundabout .5 miles west of Aspen on highway 82, take Castle Creek Road for five miles before turning right on Conundrum Road and continuing for 1.1 miles. If the limited, free parking lot is full, return to Castle Creek Road where overflow parking is available. Avoid parking on Conundrum Road where parking is prohibited and cars can be towed. The trailhead is visible at the edge of the parking lot at the end of Conundrum Road.

Each party overnighting in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is required to self-register at the Trailhead and to carry a copy of the registration with them during their visit. There is no fee charged and no limit to the number of permits issued.

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Conundrum Hot Springs Backpacking

Aspen, CO, 81612
39.158501, -106.87072

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