Buckskin Pass, Maroon Snowmass Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

Buckskin Pass - 9.2 miles

Maroon Snowmass Trailhead

View from Buckskin Pass (12,462')

View from Buckskin Pass (12,462')

Round-Trip Length: 9.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,580' - 12,462' (@ Buckskin Pass)
Elevation Change: +2,882' net elevation gain (+3,125' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Buckskin Pass - 9.2 Miles Round-Trip

Buckskin Pass (12,462') is located 4.6 miles from Maroon Lake in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It's one of nine passes over 12,000' in the wilderness, and arguably easiest to reach.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Buckskin spans a divisive ridge between Minnehaha Gulch (east) and the Snowmass Creek drainage (west). Views are among the most inclusive on this trail network, highlighted by the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, Snowmass Lake, Snowmass Mountain and distinct red-white hues of the Elk Range.

Unlike other passes that thread fragile crags between valleys, Buckskin is fairly broad with room to explore. Scan nearby ridges for mountain goat, which are common in this area. Visitors will enjoy high alpine landscapes and iconic Colorado scenery on the hike to Buckskin Pass:

The Maroon Snowmass Trail begins on a level path up the north side of Maroon Lake to the Scenic Loop split (.3 miles). It rises away in thick aspens that break across an open rock field on the valley floor (1.2 miles : 10,070’).

Pick your way through talus back into the forest, where it crests and drops to the West Maroon Creek Trail split (1.7 miles : 10,110’). Crater Lake is a quick and worthwhile excursion from this point.

The Maroon Snowmass Trail steepens considerably over Crater Lake and bends NW up Minnehaha Gulch. Enjoy great morning light on the Bells and Sleeping Sexton on this rapid climb.

The trail crosses a rocky stream channel (2.95 miles : 11,030’) to a meadow, then funnels up a shallow gulch that opens over treeline (3.45 miles : 11,480). Note camping is not permitted in these meadows.

The trail resumes a steep, sinuous course to the Willow Lake Trail split (3.8 miles : 11,745’), where it breaks NW on a twisting path up flower-covered slopes to Buckskin Pass (4.6 miles : 12,462’).

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 05.911 W106 56.452 — 0.0 miles : Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead
  • N39 05.886 W106 56.761 — 0.3 miles : Split for Maroon Lake Scenic Loop
  • N39 05.576 W106 57.373 — 1.0 miles : Trail rises up north side of West Maroon Creek
  • N39 05.327 W106 57.962 — 1.7 miles : Crater Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trail split
  • N39 05.261 W106 58.423 — 2.3 miles : Steep, winding climb up Minnehaha Gulch
  • N39 05.614 W106 58.697 — 2.95 miles : Cross left over rocky stream channel
  • N39 05.690 W106 58.894 — 3.2 miles : Steep climb over treeline into meadows
  • N39 06.016 W106 59.098 — 3.8 miles : Buckskin Pass - Willow Lake Trail split
  • N39 06.109 W106 59.554 — 4.6 miles : Buckskin Pass (12,462')

Worth Noting

  • The Maroon Snowmass Trail sees heavy traffic throughout the summer. Day hikers may consider Willow Pass (4.7 miles from Maroon Lake), an equally compelling but lightly used branch of this trail corridor.
  • Mountain goats are a familiar sight in the Buckskin Pass area. They were introduced to Colorado in 1947 to bolster the state's hunting allure, though debate continues over their indigenous status.
  • Mountain goats live in small groups at high elevations, feeding on alpine tundra grasses, mosses, lichens and sedges. Both sexes have sharp black horns that can reach 12". Heavily cushioned, skid-proof hooves give them exceptional balance and traction, and double-layered wool coats can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry Camping

  • Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. There is no fee or limit to the number of permits issued. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.

  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).

  • Camping is not permitted in the alpine meadows on either side of Buckskin Pass. Camping is permitted in Minnehaha Gulch, and about two miles west of the pass beginning at treeline.

  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake.

  • Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream. Additional location-specific restrictions may also apply.

  • Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Maroon Lake, Crater Lake, Snowmass Lake and along all related streams with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
  • Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted at Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake.
  • Camping is not permitted in the alpine meadows on either side of Buckskin Pass. Camping is permitted in Minnehaha Gulch (east of pass), and about two miles west of the pass beginning at treeline.

Directions to Trailhead

The Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead is located 9.2 miles west of Highway 82 on Maroon Creek Road. From Highway 82 in Aspen, follow the roundabout 1 mile NW of town onto Maroon Creek Road. Follow Maroon Creek Road to all designated parking lots. Call 970.925.3445 with specific questions about seasonal road access and shuttle schedules:

  • There's a $10 fee to access the Maroon Lake - Maroon Snowmass Trailhead by car. The Welcome Station is located 4.7 miles up Maroon Creek Road. Use the self-pay station just past the Welcome Station if no attendant is on duty.
  • Access by car is limited in the summer from 7am - 9am, and 5pm - 7pm. Visitors from 9am - 5pm must park at Aspen Highlands Village Parking Lot and take the Shuttle Bus to the trailhead. This parking area is located approximately 2 miles up Maroon Creek Road and is well-marked.
  • Road access restrictions do not apply to overnight backpackers. Backpackers must pay the fee, but can proceed to the overnight parking lot and bypass the shuttle.
  • There's a $6 fee to take the shuttle from Aspen Highlands Village ($3 on select weekdays). The shuttle operates everyday from mid-June to Labor Day.
  • After Labor Day, the road is open to all cars Mon-Thurs; restrictions only apply Friday-Sunday. The shuttle runs Friday-Sunday as described above.
  • Cars with infants (children under 2) and handicap plates are exempt from road restrictions, year round. The $10 access fee still applies.

Contact Information

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Aspen Ranger District
806 West Hallam
Aspen, CO 81611

Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness | Sopris Ranger District
620 Main Street
Carbondale, CO 81623

White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
970.945.2521 | 970.319.2670

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