Copper Lake Loop, East Maroon Creek Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado
Copper Lake Loop - 23.35 miles
East Maroon Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||23.35 miles (add .2 miles roundtrip to Copper Lake)|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,755' - 8,765' (12,911' max elevation on Triangle Pass)|
|Elevation Change:||+4,164' net gain to max elevation on Triangle Pass|
Copper Lake Loop - 23.35 Miles Round-Trip
Copper Lake (11,321') is located 10.65 miles from East Maroon Creek Trailhead on the Crested Butte side of East Maroon Pass (11,824'). This small but shapely lake sits at treeline .95 miles and 503' below the pass, and 4.8 miles from the Copper Trailhead in Gothic where thru-hikers can arrange pick up.
Those looking for a more interesting return from Copper Lake to Aspen can follow a connector trail to Triangle Pass (12,911') and drop down Conundrum Creek to form a 2-car shuttle loop (it's a relatively short drive between trailheads).
This longer and more challenging route features a stunning traverse across the Copper Valley headwall and a stop at Conundrum Hot Springs on the 10.5 mile descent from Triangle Pass.
Camping is only permitted in 8 designated campsites at Copper Lake (6 + 2 for stock). Fires are not permitted at these sites and within 1/4 mile of the lake. See below for more information on camping, fees, permits, bear canisters and trailhead directions and access:
The trail begins on level intervals of meadow and aspen to a connector for Maroon Lake (1.3 miles : 9,070’). Here it bends SW into the East Maroon Creek drainage with views of Pyramid Peak (14,018’). Travel is quick on mild grades past a riparian restoration area (2.7 miles : 9470’) to an unmarked spur for a horse camp (4.2 miles : 9,725’).
Traces of an old road are periodically evident past cabin remains (4.9 miles) to the first of two creek fords (5.6 miles : 9,880’), which can be swift at peak runoff. Once over it rises sharply to an avalanche-cleared slope and the second ford back to the east side (6.45 miles : 10,235’).
It climbs steeply to a long, arcing talus slope (7.0 miles : 10,605') and steadies on sections of the old road. Stay vigilant, as the trail veers right at a potentially unmarked point (7.7 miles : 10,935’).
Though maps indicate a clear split, it’s very easy to miss. Staying left keeps you on a clear path that fades above treeline on the east side of the valley heading toward Copper Pass - east Maroon Pass is located on the NW side of the valley.
Timber thins as you turn NW across the top of East Maroon Creek (8.5 miles) to a large basin under the pass (8.8 miles). The trail curls up the west valley wall on a ramp-like path to East Maroon Pass (9.7 miles : 11,824’).
It drops from the pass and makes a sharp hairpin turn with your first look at Copper Lake, then takes a long arcing descent into the basin. The trail drops to a 3-way split for Triangle Pass, the lake and campsite access (10.55 miles : 11,405'). Take the unmarked spur down to Copper Lake (10.65 miles : 11,321').
Distances noted here omit the .2 mile roundtrip spur to Copper Lake:
To continue on the loop, follow signs for Triangle Pass which lead up and undulate to the Copper Creek Trail split (10.9 miles : 11,420'). The trail bends east and steepens across the talus-strewn headwall with long views down Copper Creek valley.
At 11.95 miles the trail curls across the headwall's highest, steepest slopes toward Triangle. You'll encounter a few narrow sections that may be unsafe to cross with snow cover. Travel gradually moderates across broad slopes up to Triangle Pass (12.85 miles : 12,911').
The trail drops from Triangle Pass into the Conundrum Creek drainage on a steep, winding path that moderates across attractive alpine meadows to a spur for Conundrum Hot Springs (14.85 miles : 11,190'). The springs are a quick detour across the creek.
The main trail continues back through treeline on a steady descent in varied terrain to a wide creek crossing, which can be swift at peak runoff (16.8 miles : 10,320'). Find the shallowest way across and resume variously rugged travel down to a long bridge back over the creek at Silver Pond (17.35 miles : 10,240').
Once across travel gradually moderates in the mid-lower valley across expansive meadows separated by aspen groves and mixed timber to the Conundrum Creek Trailhead to complete the loop (23.35 miles : 8,765').
- N39 07.484 W106 54.286 — 0.0 miles : East Maroon Creek Trailhead
- N39 06.904 W106 54.540 — .75 miles : Fast intervals of meadow and aspen
- N39 06.492 W106 54.697 — 1.3 miles : Maroon Lake access spur
- N39 05.972 W106 54.951 — 2.0 miles : Veer SW into the East Maroon Creek valley
- N39 05.404 W106 55.030 — 2.75 miles : Rise over riparian habitat restoration area
- N39 04.794 W106 55.330 — 3.5 miles : Enter large meadow
- N39 04.268 W106 55.539 — 4.2 miles : Spur to horse camp
- N39 03.194 W106 55.885 — 5.6 miles : Ford creek to west side
- N39 02.597 W106 55.964 — 6.4 miles : Ford creek back to east side
- N39 02.062 W106 55.941 — 7.05 miles : Trail arcs across talus slope
- N39 01.590 W106 56.084 — 7.7 miles : Trail braids - keep right each time
- N39 01.222 W106 55.805 — Trail turns NW across valley
- N39 01.068 W106 55.845 — 8.5 miles : Cross top of East Maroon Creek
- N39 01.082 W106 56.442 — 9.2 miles : Ramp-like trail to pass
- N39 00.696 W106 56.543 — 9.7 miles : East Maroon Pass
- N39 00.363 W106 56.398 — 10.3 miles : Descend across rocky headwall
- N39 00.169 W106 56.453 — 10.55 miles : Copper Lake - Triangle Pass split
- N39 00.230 W106 56.546 — 10.6 miles : Copper Lake
- N39 00.090 W106 56.236 — 10.8 miles : Copper Creek Trail split
- N39 00.035 W106 55.448 — 11.55 miles : Steep and rocky travel across headwall
- N38 59.889 W106 55.081 — 11.95 miles : Begin curl across steep valley wall
- N38 59.802 W106 54.575 — 12.55 miles : Narrow track across headwall
- N38 59.676 W106 54.480 — 12.85 miles : Triangle Pass
- N39 00.409 W106 53.781 — 13.85 miles : Descent moderates in high alpine meadows
- N39 00.754 W106 53.488 — 14.85 miles : Hot Springs - Triangle Pass Trail split
- N39 01.808 W106 53.127 — 16.15 miles : Cross rock slide in open valley
- N39 02.258 W106 53.046 — 16.8 miles : Ford Creek wide to east side
- N39 02.622 W106 53.056 — 17.35 miles : Cross bridge at Silver Pond
- N39 03.580 W106 52.937 — 18.55 miles : Cross meadow
- N39 05.050 W106 52.148 — 20.6 miles : Cross bridge back to east side of valley
- N39 05.717 W106 51.850 — 21.5 miles : Cross large meadow
- N39 07.148 W106 51.366 — 23.35 miles : Conundrum Creek Trailhead
- Direct car access to Maroon Bells and the East Portal Trailhead is limited from June - September. Get an early start to avoid having to take the shuttle.
- Trailhead parking is limited and often full at Conundrum Creek. Arrive early to secure a space. Overflow parking is available on Castle Creek Road, a little over one mile away. Be mindful of private property on the trailhead access road - cars will be ticketed and/or towed.
- Much of this loop is exposed, even when below treeline.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration permits are available at each trailhead and/or Wilderness Boundary. Backpackers must carry a completed registration form with them for the duration of the trip.
- There's no fee for this permit, however there's a $10 fee to access the Maroon Bells and East Portal Trailheads by car.
- Camping is prohibited within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Group size is limited to 10 individuals (or 15 with people + stock).
- Bear Canisters are now required for overnight backcountry stays in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
- Campfires are not permitted within 1/4 mile of Copper Lake and Conundrum Hot Springs. Campfires are otherwise permitted in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, with potential seasonal or location-specific restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles (440 yards) of treeline, or within 100' of any trail, lake or stream. Additional location-specific restrictions may also apply.
- Contact the Aspen Ranger District (970.925.3445) or Sopris Ranger District (970.963.2266) for the latest weather, trail conditions and trail-specific guidelines when planning your trip.
- Fishing is permitted at Copper Lake and along Copper Creek, East Maroon Creek and Conundrum Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license. Trout are fairly abundant in Copper Lake.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness. Dogs are not permitted on this loop as described above (dogs are not permitted between the Silver Pond Area and Triangle Pass on the Conundrum side of the loop).
- Due to heavy use, campfires are not permitted within 1/4 mile of Copper Lake and Conundrum Hot Springs. Camping is not permitted on the first 3 miles of the East Maroon Creek Trail. Illegal fires carry a $325+ fine.
- Bear canisters are now required in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness for overnight stays in the backcountry.
Directions to Trailhead
The East Maroon Creek - East Maroon Portal Trailhead is located 6.2 miles west of Highway 82 on the south side of 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 Snowmass and East Portal Trailheads 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 1.4 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.
The Conundrum Creek Trailhead is located off of Castle Creek Road south of Aspen CO.
From the roundabout 1 mile NW of town, take Castle Creek Road 4.8 miles south to Conundrum Creek Road. Bear right, then keep left on the dirt road for one mile to the trailhead. The road is narrow in places - be mindful of oncoming traffic. The road is graded and suitable for 2WD cars.
If the lot is full, use overflow parking on Castle Creek Road around the Conundrum Creek Road turnoff. This adds a one mile+ walk to the trailhead. Parking is strictly prohibited on private property that lines the trailhead access road. Ticketing and towing is enforced.
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