Four Pass Loop

White River National Forest

Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado

Start Exploring
Four Pass Loop
00

Shares

Advertisement
  • Maroon Bells reflection in Maroon Lake.- Four Pass Loop
  • Maroon Bells reflection in Crater Lake. - Four Pass Loop
  • Heading up toward West Maroon Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Creek crossing before West Maroon Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • West Maroon Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Wildflowers along the trail to Frigid Air Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Wildflowers along the trail to Frigid Air Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Looking down from Frigid Air Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Fravert Basin wildflowers. - Four Pass Loop
  • Hiking down into Fravert Basin. - Four Pass Loop
  • Creek crossing in Fravert Basin. - Four Pass Loop
  • Ascending toward Trail Rider Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Near the detour to Geneva Lake. - Four Pass Loop
  • Sunset near Trail Rider Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Sunset near Trail Rider Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Camp near a small pond below Trail Rider Pass. - Four Pass Loop
  • Camp near Trail Rider Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • A room with a view. - Four Pass Loop
  • Trail Rider Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Looking back toward the small pond off of Trail Rider Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Wildflowers and Snowmass Lake. - Four Pass Loop
  • Snowmass Lake. - Four Pass Loop
  • Snowmass Creek. - Four Pass Loop
  • Waterfall near Snowmass Lake. - Four Pass Loop
  • Ascending toward Buckskin Pass. - Four Pass Loop
  • Wildflowers near Buckskin Pass. - Four Pass Loop
  • Backpackers begin their descent off of Buckskin Pass.- Four Pass Loop
  • Backpackers descend from Buckskin Pass with the Maroon Bells in the distance. - Four Pass Loop
  • The trail follows the Maroon Bells into Minnehaha Gulch. - Four Pass Loop
  • Trailhead at Maroon Lake. - Four Pass Loop
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Scenery. Wildflowers. Alpine lakes. Wildlife viewing.
Cons: 
Camping and food storage regulations.
Advertisement
Region:
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Summer
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
General Day Use Fee ($10.00)
Total Distance: 
27.00 mi (43.45 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
9,580 ft (2,920 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
8,000 ft (2,438 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking, Horseback
Trail type: 
Loop
Dogs allowed: 
Yes
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Rain throughout the day.
70°F
51°

Tue

Light rain throughout the day.
75°F
51°

Wed

Light rain throughout the day.
76°F
52°

Thu

Light rain in the morning and evening.
79°F
51°

Fri

Light rain starting in the afternoon, continuing until evening.
77°F
52°

Sat

Light rain starting in the afternoon.
80°F
52°

Sun

Light rain throughout the day.
82°F
53°
Advertisement
Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

A Colorado backcountry classic, Four Pass Loop travels around the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area over four mountain passes that exceed 12,000 feet. The loop extends for a total of 27 miles and includes more than 8,000 feet of elevation gain. The route is a grand tour through meadows, valleys, alpine lakes, streams, and wildflowers. Wildlife is abundant as black bears, moose, mountain goats, elk, deer, porcupines, and a variety of birds all call the White River National Forest home.

Most backpackers choose to complete the popular circuit in three or four days, and ambitious trail runners tackle the loop in a single day.

There are ample scenic spots to pitch a tent along the route, but check restrictions as the Forest Service often closes certain areas to camping because of wildlife behavior or for habitat restoration. As of 2015, bear canisters are required to store food for backpackers spending the night in the backcountry because of increased bear encounters.

The trail begins on the shores of Maroon Lake at 9,580 feet. If hiked counterclockwise, it starts up toward Crater Lake and West Maroon Pass. After a steady 6-mile climb, hikers stand on the saddle of 12,480-foot West Maroon Pass between the red rocks of Belleview Mountain to the north and Mount Bellview to the south. The trial then descends into Hasley Basin along a smooth, wildflower-lined singletrack before it gently ascends toward 12,415-foot Frigid Air Pass.

From Frigid Air Pass hikers look down into Fravert Basin, which is blanketed with colorful wildflowers in the summer. There are several places to camp while descending into the basin's pine tree forest along the North Fork Crystal River before the trail suddenly pitches up a steep ascent toward 12,415-foot Trail Rider Pass. About halfway up the heart-thumping climb hikers can take a 1.5-mile detour toward Geneva Lake or continue on up toward the pass.

Upon reaching Trail Rider Pass, Snowmass Lake can be seen below with 14,098-foot Snowmass Mountain looming in the distance. The descent follows the eastern side of the lake before turning east toward 12,462-foot Buckskin Pass and the backside of the Maroon Bells.

The descent off of Buckskin Pass is long and steep, which is why most backpackers choose to go counterclockwise rather than climb the steep pass straight off. The trail curves around the Bells as it descends into Minnehaha Gulch toward Crater Lake, where the trail leads back to the trailhead at Maroon Lake, rounding out the incredibly scenic Four Pass Loop.

The best time to make the trek is middle to late summer, after the snow melts and when the wildflowers are in bloom.

 

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Download
Advertisement
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(16 within a 30 mile radius)

Advertisement
Related Content

Related Content

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
106 Members
Who's Done It
15 Members
Submission by
Contributor
36 Adventures Explored
36 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info