Author: TMBtent

Aspen to Crested Butte – Our Trip Report

We hiked from Aspen to Crested Butte (and back) over a  beautiful summer weekend in early August. The weather was perfect, the views spectacular, and overall it was one of…

We hiked from Aspen to Crested Butte (and back) over a  beautiful summer weekend in early August. The weather was perfect, the views spectacular, and overall it was one of the best hikes we’ve ever experienced. You can find all of the technical info for the adventure here, but keep reading to see what when wrong, what went right, and what we learned from our hike between Aspen and Crested Butte.

If you’re looking for additional information on hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte be sure to check out our full series below:

 

To start our trip, we jumped in the car on a Thursday afternoon and headed up to Aspen. If possible, we’d highly recommend avoiding doing this hike on a Saturday/Sunday, as the crowds can get a bit heavy in the summertime. We were able to manage a Friday/Saturday trip, and were glad to be headed the opposite way of the nearly-nonstop parade of hikers headed to Crested Butte on Saturday. We knew we wanted to camp near the Maroon Bells trailhead prior to starting the hike in order to save time in the morning and also avoid the insanely priced hotels in Aspen. There are several campgrounds around Aspen, and we ended up staying at Difficult Campground. You can reserve the Difficult Campground and several other Aspen area campsites here.  Despite what its name might suggest, this campground was easy to book and a lovely place to spend the night. We recommend spending the night in Aspen ahead of your hike as you’ll be able to get an earlier start and have a better chance of getting a parking spot at Maroon Bells.

Quintessential Maroon Bells

We wanted to get an early start on the trail, so waking up at 4:00am to try and secure a coveted parking spot in the overnight lot at Maroon Bells seemed like the best plan of attack.  We headed to bed early, knowing that 4am comes quickly! Upon arriving at Maroon Bells a little before 5am, we found the overnight parking lot full (with lots of people clearly camping near or in their cars, which is not technically allowed). Bummed to be beaten by the rogue campers,  we treated ourselves to a coffee in town and then headed to the parking garage at Aspen Highlands to catch the first bus to the trail head at 8am. If you’re looking for more info on the parking situation at Maroon Bells we have a detailed description here.

We opted to tackle the hike via the West Maroon Pass option, an approximately 11-mile hike from start to finish. We found the trail wasn’t especially arduous, but rather long with one very steep section near the top of West Maroon Pass. The trail also has several stream crossings, so be sure you are prepared with sandals of some type to navigate the frigid, rocky streams. The approach to West Maroon Pass from the Aspen side is a beautiful walk through a long valley that highlights the quintessential character of this area. 14,000 foot peaks surround you as you make the long approach to the pass. About 3/4 of a mile before reaching the top of the pass, the trail steepens sharply and you’ll begin the ascent to the summit in earnest. Once you’ve made it, you’ll enjoy spectacular views back towards Aspen and down into the Crested Butte area.

Several stream crossings required careful attention.

Views from the top of West Maroon Pass.

The descent to the Crested Butte trailhead is full of some of the best wildflower viewing in all of Colorado. We were amazed at the seemingly endless array of colorful flowers blooming. If you’re able, we’d highly recommend hiking the trail in late-July or early-August, given the incredible wildflowers that time of year. Overall, the trail down to Crested Butte is fairly mellow, with the exception of a very steep section immediately after the summit of West Maroon Pass. After a long, meandering walk through the sea of wildflowers, we found ourselves at the West Maroon trailhead on the Crested Butte side where we had arranged to whisked into town by Dolly’s Mountain Shuttles. Unfortunately, Dolly’s proved to be very unreliable, and we ended up hitching a ride from some friendly hikers instead (and getting a refund from Dolly’s). We spent a lovely night in CB and enjoy post-hike beers and excellent pizza at the Brick Oven.

Wildflowers en-route to Crested Butte

The next morning we were shuttled to the trailhead by a local Crested Butte friend. Rather than getting dropped of at the West Maroon trailhead, we opted instead to start our hike on the 401 trail (a little closer to town) in order to see some different trails in the area. The 401 is the quintessential mountain biking trail in CB, and it was fun to see all the cyclists huffing and puffing their way to the top. Eventually, the 401 forks and you can connect back with the trail that will take you to the top of West Maroon Pass. If you’re interested in taking this alternative, be sure you have a good map and a solid understanding of where the trails merge.

On the way back to Aspen, we were surprised by the constant flow of people heading into Crested Butte. It was a beautiful Saturday, and it seemed that the entire town of Aspen had decided to head to Crested Butte for the night. Our hike was once again filled with incredible views, plentiful wildflowers, and the euphoria that comes with spending a day outside in the Rocky Mountains. We arrived back at the Maroon Bells trailhead by mid-afternoon, and hopped on the shuttle bus back to the Aspen Highlands parking lot. We then drove to Carbondale for the night, where we enjoyed a lovely B&B, some delicious Mexican food, and a few beers to celebrate our successful trip between Aspen and Crested Butte!

Want a sweet souvenir from your hike? Check out our art prints!

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10 Essentials for the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is no doubt one of the greatest hiking trips in the world. The route is filled with incredible views, towns, and people, and it will…

The Tour du Mont Blanc is no doubt one of the greatest hiking trips in the world. The route is filled with incredible views, towns, and people, and it will surely be a trip we never forget. We highly recommend camping along the way as you’ll save money and experience the towns and stops along the TMB in a very different way. We’ve also published our packing list for those curious as to what they may need to bring to ensure they are equipped for this adventure. But what other recommendations do we have for those considering tackling the awesome experience that is the TMB? Here are our 10 essentials for hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc.

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Aspen to Crested Butte Art Store

We have new Aspen to Crested Butte art prints available! See below for new designs. All designs are available as posters, wood prints, canvas prints and art prints, and come…

We have new Aspen to Crested Butte art prints available! See below for new designs. All designs are available as posters, wood prints, canvas prints and art prints, and come in a variety of sizes. View the full collection here.

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Tour du Mont Blanc Store

Looking to commemorate your Tour du Mont Blanc trip with an awesome souvenir? Look no further than the TMBtent Tour du Mont Blanc Store. We have custom made Tour du…

Looking to commemorate your Tour du Mont Blanc trip with an awesome souvenir? Look no further than the TMBtent Tour du Mont Blanc Store. We have custom made Tour du Mont Blanc t-shirts and Tour du Mont Blanc posters for sale on our Etsy shop. Check out the full selection below:

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Be sure to check out our other TMB posts as well:

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How to find all of your campgrounds on the TMB

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the TMB in conjunction with our post on how to navigate the trek, we thought it would be helpful to provide a resource…

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the TMB in conjunction with our post on how to navigate the trek, we thought it would be helpful to provide a resource for finding your campground when using the Gaia GPS app on your smartphone. The following post will show you how to download customized location data for all of the campgrounds mentioned in the camping guide and how to use it with our guide to navigating the TMB as well as our guide to Tour du Mont Blanc maps. Let’s get started.

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How to hike from Aspen to Crested Butte for (nearly) free

Have you checked out our Guide to Hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte?  Maybe you’ve thought that this would be an awesome adventure, but you worry about the cost of…

Have you checked out our Guide to Hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte?  Maybe you’ve thought that this would be an awesome adventure, but you worry about the cost of a trip like this? Even if you don’t live in Colorado, it’s still possible (and even quite easy) to conquer this classic hike without breaking the bank by using the strategies described here and by opening just a single credit card! Keep reading to find out more.

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How to Hike the Tour du Mont Blanc for (nearly) free

Have you checked out our Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc, TMB Trip Report and TMB Photo Gallery? Are you itching to get started planning your own…

Have you checked out our Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc, TMB Trip Report and TMB Photo Gallery? Are you itching to get started planning your own TMB adventure, but nervous about the cost of such a big trip? Well not to worry, in this post I’ll walk you through exactly how we hiked the TMB while spending almost no out-of-pocket money just by utilizing two credit card signup bonuses. Keep reading to learn more.

Are you a US based traveler hoping to hike the TMB for nearly free? Looking for help saving hundreds of dollars on your trip? Consider using our TMB award booking service! Prices start at $50 per traveler and we’ll save you at least $600+ on your flight, and many times much more! Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.

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How to Save Money with Airbnb

Airbnb has exploded in popularity over the past few years. You can now find a place to rent in almost every corner of the globe ranging from small bedrooms in…

Airbnb has exploded in popularity over the past few years. You can now find a place to rent in almost every corner of the globe ranging from small bedrooms in a basic homes to luxurious mansions. We have had great success using Airbnb to save on our travel costs over the years. You can generally find a clean, well-located Airbnb for prices much lower than a hotel in a similar neighborhood. We’ve found this to be especially true in expensive cities such as London, as well as resort towns like Crested Butte. Airbnbs can offer several distinct advantages over a traditional hotel. If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb before you can use this link to get $40 off your first stay.

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Backpacking Gear on a Budget

So, you want to take that first big backpacking trip. You’ve gotten your body into decent shape, you’ve saved up your vacation days, and maybe you’ve even used some of…

So, you want to take that first big backpacking trip. You’ve gotten your body into decent shape, you’ve saved up your vacation days, and maybe you’ve even used some of our strategies to book your travel for free. Way to go! You’re ready! Except, you just need a backpack…and maybe some trekking poles….and most of the other items on our packing list. If you’re like us, you enjoy spending your hard-earned money on experiences, not stuff. Before we embarked on the Tour of Mont Blanc, I didn’t have much gear to my name.  As a Chicago native, I had acquired hiking boots at some point during my decade of living in Colorado, and I had running clothes, but little else. I’d previously gotten by borrowing Ian’s way-too-big, broken-frame backpack for shorter trips, but I knew that wouldn’t cut it for an 11-day trek. Believe it or not, I was able to procure all of the high-quality gear I needed for the trip without stretching my uber-tight budget even a little bit. Here’s how I did it:

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Aspen to Crested Butte Packing List

The hike from Aspen to Crested Butte is a Colorado classic. These two iconic mountain towns are linked by a spectacular trail that takes you over West Maroon Pass. You…

The hike from Aspen to Crested Butte is a Colorado classic. These two iconic mountain towns are linked by a spectacular trail that takes you over West Maroon Pass. You can read our Guide to Hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte here.

Below you’ll find our packing list for this adventure!

 

Personal Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
BackpackGregory Zulu 40L backpackPerfect size for a quick overnight trip.
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThe best pack-cover we've ever used.
Camel BakCamel Bak Crux - 100 oz.Way easier than a water bottle!
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-Plier
First-aid kitAdventure Medical Kits
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Trail Back trekking polesGreat on the long downhill sections.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm headlamp
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless camera

 

Men’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2 pairs)Exofficio Give-N-Go boxerHighly recommended! You can easily wash these in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Moutain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion shortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Seater HoodieSuper warm, and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II jacketA good rain jacket is a must!
HatOutdoor Research Performance Trucker hat
SandalsChaco Z1You'll definitely want these for the stream crossings.
GaitersOutdoor Research Crocodile GaiterEssential for stream crossings and thick willows.
Hiking bootsVasque Talus UltradrySuper comfortable and super waterproof!
BandanaLevi's bandana
Digital watchCasio Classic Sports watchAll you'll ever need
PonchoTotes Rain PonchoThis is often the most effective way to stay dry while hiking. And it's cheap!
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized sunglasses

 

Women’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2 pairs)Adidas Climacool underwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bras (2)Brooks Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew
Short sleeve hiking shirt (3)Mountain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Leggings (1 pair)Nike Power Essential Running Tight
Flannel shirt (1)Columbia Simply Put II Flannel ShirtEmily enjoyed having something soft and cozy to put on after a day of hiking.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater JacketLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketKelty All-Weather JacketAn affordable and high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
GaitersOutdoor Research Crocodile GaiterEssential for steam crossings and thick willows.
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire bra
Hat
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1These are a must for the stream crossings!
BandanaBuff UV Headband
PonchoTotes Rain Poncho
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