Four Pass Loop

August 18, 2017

Four Pass Loop

All treks have to start somewhere, and Maroon Bells definitely isn’t the worst place to start this 28 mile loop. We all started out with enthusiasm and excitement, having heard much of the stunning landscapes we were about to encounter. Words of the beauty of the Snowmass Wilderness don’t do it justice. Even the images we captured still pale in comparison to seeing these jagged peaks and sprawling fields in real life.


The first mile held this enthusiasm, but the grey clouds rolling in started to dilute the hope that we would make it over two passes in one day. Our first challenge came with the first river crossing. This doesn’t sound like much of a challenge, but having not backpacked in a while, that 30 pound weight was suddenly a teeter-totter on my back. I would be lying if I said I didn’t almost plunge into that freezing water rushing beneath my feet.



A couple miles after this, we were able to see the first pass. With the goal in sight, we set ahead to reach the first pass... after eating several gummy bears (for nutritional value of course). Cooper (the adorable pup) had already lapped the whole group at least eight times at this point. I found myself wishing I had his boundless energy several times throughout this trek.


(Photo taken by Dylan McCaghren)

Once we made it to the top, we got a preview for what was to come. And, man, was it stunning. On one side of the pass pass was Crested Butte, and on the other, Aspen. Not a bad divide, to say the least.

On the way down this pass, I soon realized how bad I am at walking downhill. I was thankful for friends that share their trekking poles upon this realization. But the downhill was rewarded with none other than my college self’s form of sustenance; ramen.



The path to the next pass was packed with wildflowers in every direction. To say they were peaking would be an understatement. From red to blue, Columbines to Indian Paintbrushes, every type of wildflower surrounded us. The beauty captured by these flowers was followed by an extremely steep uphill to the second pass. All I could think of while looking at the summit was that I was thankful I wasn’t headed down the path, because with my downhill skills I would have been rolling through the flowers below us.


(Photo taken by Dylan McCaghren)

Those thoughts passed quickly though as we reached the summit and were greeted with the backside of the Bells. As it was our friend’s birthday, we figured it was only fitting we finished the second summit off with a few swigs of whiskey. We finished the day off by retreating to treeline and grabbing a site...with views of this double rainbow (what does it mean?!).


(Photo taken by Dylan McCaghren)

The first half of day two could be summed up in expletives. Stunning the entire way and also extremely uphill. The switchbacks seemed to be never ending. And just when we thought they were over, we saw the real summit.


(Photo taken by Dylan Mccaghren)

The second half could be summed up in more positive expletives. All the uphill paid off with the sight of Snowmass Lake. I thought I had seen astonishing alpine lakes before, but this one took the cake. If I could redo one part of the trip, it would have been to spend more time by these waters.



By the end of this day, we all collapsed at the first campsite we came across. With passing storms, we welcomed the warm meals from the Jetboil. Who knew dehydrated meals could be so tasty.



Day three begins, and all we could think of were the burgers and beers that awaited us upon arrival into town. The last pass came with a subtle climb, which we were all grateful for after 20 miles. The views at the top also weren’t all bad, either. With Pyramid peak in one direction, and Snowmass Lake in the distance in the other, the final pass was anything but underwhelming.


(Photo taken by Dylan Mccaghren)

Three thousand feet of descent later, we finished off the loop. To say this trip was a challenge would be an understatement, but every moment of challenge was met with immeasurable beauty. So would I recommend this trip? Without a doubt. You will see some of the most insane peaks and astonishing landscapes Colorado has to offer. Oh and that burger at the end of it, probably the best you’ll have in your life.  

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