Category: Colorado

Guide to Hiking Chasm Lake

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours. Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular…

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours.

Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Getting there is pretty incredible too.  The trail climbs gently through varied terrains, offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and plenty of marmot sightings. This hike is only steep and moderately technical in the last half-mile or so; the rest of it should be quite manageable for most fit(ish) hikers.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is accessed via CO-7, either from Estes Park or Allenspark. If you are coming from the Front Range, head to Lyons, then turn left onto CO-7. Stay on that road past Allenspark, and keep an eye out for signs for the Longs Peak trailhead.  When you see the turn-off (just after you enter into Larimer County), take a left. You’ll follow this road until it reaches the ranger station and trailhead. If you are hiking on a busy weekend or holiday in the summer, expect to park along the road, as the lot fills up very early. Although the hike is within Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors do not need to pay an entrance fee at this location.

The Hike

Begin your hike by following the East Longs Peak Trail.  You’ll be on this trail for most of the hike, and all of the junctions are very well marked. For the first mile or so, you’ll climb at a mellow grade through lovely pine forests. At the first junction, follow the signage and veer left.  From here, you’ll traverse a few switchbacks as you start to see and hear a stream that courses alongside the trail in several places.  A bit higher up, you’ll cross the stream (there is a bridge), and the views open up towards the forest below.  This peaceful, shady spot is a great place to stop for a snack or a short break. As you keep hiking past the stream crossing, the pine forest dwindles until the only trees left are krumholz, the short, wind-sculpted trees found at higher elevations. As you get above treeline, the views really open up.

The first stream crossing en route to Chasm Lake.

Looking to the east, you get big vistas of the entire Front Range, and to the west Longs Peak looms large. The rest of the hike winds through alpine tundra. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wide array of delicate and colorful wildflowers that dot this landscape in the summer months. The trail continues to climb steadily (and a bit more steeply) until it reaches the next junction at about mile 2.5.  The right-hand fork will take you up Battle Mountain, while the left will continue towards Longs Peak and Chasm Lake. After another mile, you’ll reach a rocky ridge.  There’s an outhouse here, and this is another nice spot to take a break. This is where you’ll leave the Longs Peak Trail (that’s an adventure for another day), and make your final push towards Chasm Lake.

From the junction, the trail hugs the side of the ridge, narrowly in some places, as it curves towards the lake. We hiked in late June and encountered a small amount of snow in this section. While it wasn’t too difficult, traversing the snow on this narrow section of trail might be a bit unsettling for some hikers.  Use hiking poles and keep your weight leaned in towards the mountain, and you should be just fine.  As you approach Chasm Lake, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls.  Just before reaching the lake, you will encounter a steep section that contains large boulders.  You’ll need to do some scrambling in a few places, but this tricky section is very short (and very fun!).  Spectacular Chasm Lake is waiting for you at the top.  Grab a seat on one of the many large rocks ringing the lake, relax, and enjoy this beautiful little pocket of  earth. Make sure to head down early enough in the day to avoid being above tree line when afternoon thunderstorms roll in. We capped off this perfect summer day with a post-hike ice cream outing, and we’d highly recommend you do the same.

The final approach to Chasm Lake.

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Longs Peak!

Considerations:

  • If hiking in June, check the snow conditions before you go.  July and August are the best months to complete this hike.
  • The alpine section of this hike is quite exposed, which makes it a dangerous place to be in the event of a thunderstorm. Start early to avoid getting caught up there when weather moves in.
  • If hiking on a weekend, plan for an extra mile or so of walking along the road, as the parking lot fills up very early with hikers attempting to summit Longs Peak.
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Guide to Heart Lake Snowshoeing

This is the snowshoeing adventure that has it all: easy proximity to the Front Range, minimal crowds in the wintertime, challenging climbs, spectacular views, and long peaceful stretches of trail…

This is the snowshoeing adventure that has it all: easy proximity to the Front Range, minimal crowds in the wintertime, challenging climbs, spectacular views, and long peaceful stretches of trail flanked by towering pines.  Getting to Heart Lake on snowshoes is not an easy task.  The hike is strenuous, and will likely take up the better part of your day.  However, the challenge of the trek makes the stunning views of the lake and the Continental Divide that much more rewarding.  Read on as we share all the essentials for planning your own Heart Lake snowshoe outing.

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Guide to Conundrum Hot Springs

Conundrum Hot Springs, located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness just outside of Aspen, Colorado is a truly incredible backcountry experience. The 8.5-mile long hike along Conundrum Creek leads you to…

Conundrum Hot Springs, located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness just outside of Aspen, Colorado is a truly incredible backcountry experience. The 8.5-mile long hike along Conundrum Creek leads you to natural hot springs with fantastic views of the entire valley. This is a one-of-a-kind hike is an experience that you’ll never forget. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your very own Conundrum Hot Springs trip.

(Note: The Conundrum Hot Springs trail and backcountry area experience very heavy usage, and have suffered in recent years as a result. The Forest Service is implementing a reservation system beginning in 2018, which will hopefully help to keep this wilderness area pristine. Please do your part by abiding by the Leave No Trace backcountry practices.)

Conundrum Hot Springs

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Guide to Lake Verna/East Inlet Backpacking

Lake Verna, located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and accessible via the East Inlet trailhead, offers some of the most spectacular backpacking in the region. Less…

Lake Verna, located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park and accessible via the East Inlet trailhead, offers some of the most spectacular backpacking in the region. Less crowded than other areas of Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Verna and the East Inlet trail make for a fantastic backcountry adventure in Colorado’s most famous national park. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your own Lake Verna backpacking trip.

Lake Verna

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Guide to Backpacking to Craig Meadows

Craig Meadows, located just south the town of Bailey, offers a great Colorado weekend backpacking trip. Reachable in less than an hour from Denver and often free of snow early…

Craig Meadows, located just south the town of Bailey, offers a great Colorado weekend backpacking trip. Reachable in less than an hour from Denver and often free of snow early in the season, Craig Meadows makes for an easy backpacking escape from Colorado’s Front Range. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your own trip to Craig Meadows.

Backpack to Craig Meadows

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Colorado’s Best City Hikes

Recently, I took a trip to Palm Springs, California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family.  We’re spread out all over the country, so the desert city is always…

Sunset over Palm Springs. CA

Recently, I took a trip to Palm Springs, California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family.  We’re spread out all over the country, so the desert city is always the perfect place to meet up and get some early winter sun.  One of our favorite traditions is to hike the iconic Museum Trail.  This trail winds straight up from the parking lot of the local art museum (hence the name), and is accessed from the center of downtown.  We like to do the hike late in the afternoon so we can watch the sun set and the city lights turn on below us as we descend.  My family likes to cap off this annual hike with a trip to the Mexican joint a few blocks from the trailhead for margaritas.  This year, I came to an important realization: city hikes are awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate the solitude of trekking the remote backcountry as much as any nature fanatic.  However, there is also something fabulous about walking or biking to a trailhead, savoring spectacular urban views, and having an array of apres-hike venues mere steps from your finishing point. In this post, I’ll share my five favorite city hikes right here in Colorado. I hope they’ll make you love urban hiking as much as I do.

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5 Essentials for Hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte

The hike from Aspen to Crested Butte is no doubt one of the quintessential Colorado adventures. The 11-mile trail linking the two mountain towns is full of incredible scenery, stunning…

The hike from Aspen to Crested Butte is no doubt one of the quintessential Colorado adventures. The 11-mile trail linking the two mountain towns is full of incredible scenery, stunning wildflowers, and will reward the hiker with a sense of accomplishment unmatched by most trails. Have we convinced you to do it yet? Before you go, be sure to check out our guide, as well as a trip report, packing list, and our custom art prints. These resources offer everything you’ll need to make the most of your trip.  As for big picture advice, here you’ll find the five most essential tips for hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte.

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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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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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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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