East Snowmass Trail, East Snowmass Trailhead, Aspen - Snowmass, Colorado

East Snowmass Trail - 14.1 miles

East Snowmass Trailhead

Looking north from East Snowmass Pass (12,684')

Looking north from East Snowmass Pass (12,684')

Round-Trip Length: 14.1 miles (roundtrip distance to Pass)
Start-End Elevation: 8,422' - 12,684' (elevation on Pass)
Elevation Change: +4,262' net elevation gain (+4,648' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

East Snowmass Trail - 14.1 Miles Round-Trip

East Snowmass Trail runs 7.05 miles south from the backside of Snowmass Ski Area to a 12,684' pass separating the East Snowmass Creek drainage and Willow Lake basin. It continues approximately 1 mile and 680' down to the Willow Lake Trail, which rolls .7 miles across open alpine meadows to the lake (11,795').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The East Snowmass Trail is a lightly used route into the heart of the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, an ideal choice for strong hikers looking to avoid crowds that emanate from Maroon Lake (there's also no fee).

The trail is distinguished by nearly 5 miles of open valley travel framed by colorful red walls leading up to the pass. It can be linked with the Willow Lake and Maroon-Snowmass trails to form a loop that scales Willow Pass and Buckskin Pass before dropping to Snowmass Lake and the Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead, just a few steps up the road from where you started.

Whether tackling it as a day hike or part of a longer backpacking route, get an early start to avoid summer storms on this exposed and challenging trail:

The East Snowmass Trail climbs steeply through aspen and mixed pine to the Wilderness Boundary (.65 miles) and Ditch Trail split (1.12 miles : 9,105'). It keeps a similar pace through diverse forests before emerging in open space (2.2 miles : 9,755') and moderating across rolling meadows in the lower valley.

It rises steadily with several short, steep intervals across open slopes to consecutive stream crossings at 3.45 miles (10,555'), the second of which is veiled by heavy brush.

Once through it enters a tall spruce-fir forest and eases for half a mile before another steep push leads to flat, stream cut meadows on the valley floor (4.3 miles : 11,040').

This is arguably the finest stretch to camp on the East Snowmass Trail no matter your final destination. The trail steepens past the meadows through the last bands of timber to treeline (5.1 miles : 11,455'). Travel now moderates across an expansive alpine landscape that rises incrementally to the pass.

At 6.0 miles (12,015') it bends SE and dips past an unmarked fork (keep left) and crosses a stream to the east side of the valley (6.35 miles : 12,065'). Once over it rises steeply up the east valley wall to East Snowmass Pass (7.05 miles : 12,684').

The pass spans a small notch on the valley headwall with exceptional views across the Willow Lake basin and a line of peaks across the Elk Range. It continues south on a very steep descent to the Willow Lake Trail split, which is .7 miles from the lake and .8 miles from Willow Pass (12,572').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 12.023 W106 59.428 — 0.0 miles : East Snowmass Trailhead
  • N39 11.902 W106 59.228 — .45 miles : Switchback over gulch
  • N39 11.801 W106 59.306 — .65 miles : Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Boundary
  • N39 11.462 W106 59.160 — 1.12 miles : Ditch Trail split
  • N39 11.145 W106 59.230 — 1.5 miles : Steady climb in heavy forest
  • N39 10.806 W106 59.079 — 2.0 miles : Grade steepens 1.5 - 2.0 miles
  • N39 10.671 W106 58.936 — 2.2 miles : Emerge in open slopes on west side of valley
  • N39 10.450 W106 58.938 — 2.5 miles : Moderately steep travel up open slopes
  • N39 10.090 W106 59.080 — 3.0 miles : Short, steep switchback up west wall
  • N39 09.774 W106 59.061 — 3.45 miles : Cross first of two consecutive creeks
  • N39 09.370 W106 58.823 — 4.0 miles : Moderate stretch to steep climb in forest
  • N39 09.009 W106 58.904 — 4.5 miles : Cross level meadows in center of valley
  • N39 08.583 W106 59.050 — 5.1 miles : Clear treeline (11,455')
  • N39 08.319 W106 59.218 — 5.5 miles : Mild-moderate travel alpine meadows of upper valley
  • N39 07.949 W106 59.160 — 6.0 miles : Bend SE and drop to center of valley
  • N39 07.920 W106 59.041 — 6.1 mikles : Keep left at unmarked fork
  • N39 07.757 W106 58.892 — 6.35 miles : Cross stream and turn up west side of valley
  • N39 07.471 W106 58.847 — 6.75 miles : Steep push
  • N39 07.253 W106 58.775 — 7.05 miles : East Snowmass Pass (12,684')
  • N39 06.791 W106 58.471 — Willow Lake Trail split (12,005')
  • N39 06.650 W106 57.798 — Willow Lake (11,795')

Worth Noting

  • Approximately 60-65% of the trail is exposed, and cover is limited even when below treeline. Watch weather carefully, which can arrive quickly over tall valley walls that block your view of developing storms.
  • East Snowmass Creek is framed by Willoughby Mountain (13,142' - west side) and Baldy Mountain (13,155' - east side), whose ridgelines form an almost contiguous wall exceeding 13,000' over the valley.
  • The trail's many miles of open, sunny slopes are rife with wildflowers.

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).

  • Campfires are 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. Location and seasonal-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 along East Snowmass Creek and at Willow Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The East Snowmass Trailhead is located on Divide Road on the (west) backside of Snowmass Village.

From Highway 82, turn onto Brush Creek Road and follow it 5.4 miles to Divide Road. Bear right on Divide Road and continue past Krabloonik Restaurant and Kennels, where it will turn steeply down toward the valley floor and turn to dirt/gravel.

Keep left at the fork and look for the trailhead on the left just over the wood bridge. The trailhead is 1.5 miles from the point where the road turns to dirt. High clearance is preferable but may be attempted by 2WD cars when the road is clear.

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

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Beautiful trail and much less crowded than the Maroon Bells! What a great find. This trail is snow-free right now, just a few trees down along the way. There were a few spots where you had to figure out how to get around / over them, but not too difficult. I'll come back next summer and camp at Willow Lake."
Jules K  -   -  Date Posted: July 21, 2016


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