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.)
What to Bring
- Overnight backpacking gear list
- National Geographic Trails Illustrated #148
- Valid Reservation (see details below)
Permits and Reservations
New in 2018, all overnight campers at Conundrum Hot Springs are required to reserve a campsite in advance through the recreation.gov website. Campsites will vary in the number of people they can accommodate, with maximums ranging between 2 – 6 people. There are 17 campsites that are reservable on a first come, first served basis. The cost for the permit is $10, and you can stay a maximum of three nights.
If you show up without a permit and plan on spending the night, you’ll be booted back to the trailhead, so be sure you’ve reserved your spot before setting out!
Getting to the Trailhead
The Conundrum Creek trailhead is accessed via the main roundabout just west of Aspen. If you’re coming from Colorado’s Front Range, take I-70 West to Glenwood Springs. From Glenwood, you’ll head southeast on Highway 82 towards Aspen. Once you reach the roundabout, turn onto Castle Creek Road. After approximately 5 miles on Castle Creek Road, take a right onto Conundrum Creek Road, which runs directly to the trailhead.
You can use the Google Maps link below to get specific driving directions:
Upon leaving the trailhead, you’ll begin your hike along the Conundrum Creek trail. Heading southwest along the trail, your hike starts out with wide open views up the valley. Depending on the season, you’ll likely experience either abundant wildflowers or golden aspen trees. As is typical of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Conundrum Creek runs through a deep valley with high peaks flanking you on either side. Enjoy the incredible views as you make your way up the 8.5-mile trail towards the hot springs.
There are three stream crossings to be aware of along the trail, the first occurring at approximately mile 2.5 and the second and third around mile 6. The stream flows will be heaviest early in the season, but be sure to be cautious crossing any time of year.
The hike is long, clocking in at just under 9 miles with approximately 2,500 feet of elevation gain. Although it’s not an especially difficult trek, the length alone will make you glad you packed an extra snack or two. Also, be sure to bring lots of water as there are long sections of trail with little shade and that famous Colorado sun shining down on you.
Once you’ve reached the hot springs, you’ll want to set up camp at your reserved campsite before taking a much deserved dip in the springs. You’ll likely be sharing the hot springs with a number of new friends who may or may not be partaking in Conundrum’s “clothing optional” tradition. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the great feeling that comes with experiencing one of the best backcountry trips in the world!
The map below shows the trail. You can use this link to open it in a new window. As always, this map isn’t intended to be used in the backcountry – only to provide you with a general overview of the hike. Be sure you’re carrying a copy of National Geographic Trails Illustrated #148 when you set out on your trek.