One of the most popular hiking trips in Colorado travels between Aspen and the quaint and laid-back Victorian town of Crested Butte. Our suggested route is the generally considered the preferred approach to this classic hike.
There are a couple of options to hike to and from Crested Butte from Aspen, but the description below highlight what is widely considered to be the most direct and enjoyable way to hike: East Maroon Pass to Gothic to Crested Butte and Schofield Pass/West Maroon Pass on the way back to Aspen.
What Makes It Great
West Maroon Pass is especially memorable and is one of Colorado's favorite hiking trails for a reason: views, wildflowers, creeks, just a sampler platter of the best of the Colorado Rockies.
If you pack light, and are a strong hiker, you can hike to Crested Butte, camp overnight and do the return hike to Aspen the next day. If you're traveling with a slower moving posse, plan to break up the traverse by camping along the way. We recommend somewhere around Copper Lake.
To make it even easier on yourself, make advance reservations with Dolly's Mountain Shuttle. For $15 per person/dog, they will pick you up in Gothic and take you into Crested Butte and pick you up and take you back to the trailhead again in the morning.
Aspen to Crested Butte via East Maroon Pass/Gothic (16 miles) The trail is well used and well signed so just pay attention at junctions and you shouldn't have a problem. Just after you pass the left fork that leads to the Conundrum Trail, keep right until the trail finally curves left and traverses uphill to East Maroon Pass. As you head down the other side of the pass, you'll see Copper Lake in a lovely basin with Copper Creek gushing down below the lake. As you near Copper Lake, there will be a three-way junction: left leads to Conundrum/Triangle Pass, right takes you to Copper Lake and straight takes you along a jeep trail towards Gothic. Continue straight, heading down the drainage on the jeep trail.
After several easy creek crossings, where the creek drops steeply into a deep canyon, look for a sign on the left for Judd Falls. Four miles later you'll come to the Wilderness Boundary sign near Judd Falls. The trail will go ascent a bit before dropping into a trailhead parking lot. Walk down the main road from here to Gothic and hop in your shuttle or hitch a ride to downtown Crested Butte or your preferred camping spot.
Crested Butte to Aspen via Schofield/West Maroon Pass (11 miles) If you hired Dolly's Mountain Shuttle, they will take you straight to the trailhead so no route finding is necessary. The well used, well signed trail up East Fork to West Maroon Pass, though strenuous, is pretty straightforward. If you're camping overnight to break up the trek, head for the campsites in the trees on the Aspen side of West Maroon Pass. This route gets you up close and personal with Crater Lake and the Maroon Bells.
Who is Going to Love It
Experienced, acclimated hikers will best enjoy the route, especially if attempting to hike to and from within a two-day span. Intermediate hikers will find the route challenging, but well-worth the sweat-equity and tired feet.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The route starts and ends at the at the East Maroon Portal off Maroon Creek Road, which is located about 10 miles from downtown Aspen. You can park overnight at the Maroon Lake parking area and pick your car up the next day.