Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop

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With only a couple days to prepare, two friends and I decided to attempt hiking the Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop over a 6 day weekend. Our plan was to spend 2 days driving and 4 days on the trail. Ultimately we were unsuccessful at completing the entire route due to a member’s combination of falling ill to Acute Mountain Sickness (altitude sickness) and suffering an ingrown toenail. We were entirely conscious of the altitude gain, and were prepared to call it off if one of us were to become ill. In total, we hiked over half the intended distance, but only managed to see 25% of the loop. The fall colors were incredible, and there were hardly any people on the trail due to the late-season cold weather. Read on for some route information, our trail log, gear list, and some photos of the epic scenery. Enjoy!


Crater Lake Colorado Maroon Bells



Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop is located in Maroon Bells Wilderness. It is rather popular in the summer for its incredible views of wildflowers and lakes. The trail is entirely free to enter, hike and tent along, however you must fill out a Wilderness Use Permit and attach it to your bag. The trail begins at Maroon Lake, just a short drive out of Aspen, Colorado. The trail completes a loop around the Maroon Bells twin peaks, and as the name suggests, includes hiking over 4 passes. The trail begins at 9,000ft and each pass is roughly 12,500 ft, so there is a lot of leg work! In total, the trail is 24 miles long, and is commonly completed over 5 days, though some do it in 4. The official USDA documentation for this trail is rather useful, and can be found here:


Wilderness Permit Maroon Bells



Below are some photos of my gear list. Some of the items are shared amongst the 3 of us, including the cook-set, water filter and tent. We ended up bringing a larger, much heavier, 4 person tent (Kelty Zodiak 4). My 2 fellow hikers were not as experienced or equipped for hiking in North America, so we had to work with what was available. Here is a detailed breakdown of each item, including weight:




A brief journal of our trail activity, including relevant photos. To preface this, we had begun taking ibuprofen at 6 hour intervals when we passed through Denver (5,000ft). Combined with plenty of water and food, this is the best strategy to minimize the affects of altitude sickness.




Complete 24hr drive from Iowa (1,000ft)

Organize gear, weigh 30b packs

Start hike from Maroon Bells, Maroon Lake

Maroon Lake Colorado



Reach Crater lake, Taking many breaks, filter some water

Crater Lake Colorado


12:15 – 1PM

Lunch at river crossing: Ramen and tuna

Shaiful begins to feel the affects of the elevation

Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop


Maroon Bells


Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop

Crossed Maroon Pass – 12,500ftWest Maroon Pass, Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop


West Maroon Pass, Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop


West Maroon Pass Julian State


Continued down into the valley

West Maroon Pass, Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop


Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop



Made camp – 11,700ft

Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop



Dinner: Mountain House Rice Pilaf and instant rice

Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop





Sunset Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop
Sunset Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop






Get up and take some star photos

Stars Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop




Slept. Had to use earplugs due to Mateen’s snoring (:




Get up

Everything’s frozen over: tent covered in snow/frost, water bottles 25% frozen

Breakfast: hot oatmeal, snack bars

Decide Shaiful is not able to keep going due to ingrown nail and altitude sickness (persistent headache, short of breath)

Decide to cancel plans and return to lower elevation

Relax and wait for the sun. Play cards, nap

Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop




Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop



Begin hike back up Maroon pass


Reach Maroon pass

Hang out, relax, take photos

Light snow begins to fall


West Maroon Pass



West Maroon Pass



Depart Maroon Pass

Talk to 3 groups on the way down

See 2 Marmots


Marmot Maroon Bells



Lunch at 11,000ft


Shaiful steps in a creek


Stream Maroon Bells



A porcupine scurries across the path

Porcupine Maroon Bells



Spotted a few Pika’s eyeing us from their lookouts

Pika Maroon Bells



Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop



Arrive at Maroon Lake Parking

Maroon Lake Parking


This hike definitely requires a little more time for acclimation. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike, regardless of our inability to complete the loop. There’s always next time! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!


To see some of my favorite photos from the trip at a much higher quality, check out my photos on 500px.

  • Gooi Ying Chyi

    “There’s always next time” I like that comment!

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