During the summer and fall seasons, the drive from Aspen to Crested Butte via Kebler Pass takes roughly two-and-a-half hours, but ask any Coloradoan and they’ll tell you, the best way to get to Crested Butte from Aspen during summer or fall is by foot.
First, a few trail facts: The average time for the hike is around six – eight hours and the trail rating is difficult. The ideal months to hike from Aspen to Crested Butte are late June to mid-October. July is the best time of year to see the wildflowers, and late September is ideal for fall foliage. Dogs are allowed on the hike but must be leashed at all times.
Reservations to the Maroon Bells are required this year and can be made online here.
West Maroon vs. East Maroon Pass
There are three routes hikers can take between Aspen to Crested Butte, but the two most common are West Maroon and East Maroon Pass, which are both equally scenic. While West Maroon is the more common popular of the two, it is a bit steeper compared to the East Maroon route. However, it offers stunning views from the top of the pass. The West Maroon route is around 12 miles and East Maroon about 15 miles. East Maroon has fewer hikers and easier hiking along with great views of Emerald Lake, Copper Lake, and Pyramid Peak. Click here for the USFS info on East Maroon and here for West Maroon.
It is recommended to start the hike early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Guests can get dropped off at the Maroon Bells Scenic area by a friend between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. before the RFTA busses start running. Or make a reservation on one of the early morning shuttles. A $10 fee is required at the Welcome Center Entrance Self Pay Station. If you’re going to the Maroon Bells for a quick hike around Maroon Lake or to Crater Lake we recommend taking the bus as well as these additional tips. The West Maroon Route starts at Maroon Lake and East Maroon starts on the road up to Maroon Lake.
Getting to Crested Butte from the end of the trailhead
Anyone considering the hike needs to book a ride in advance for pick up from the end of the trailheads to Crested Butte. For the West Maroon Route, you should book a ride to meet your party at the Schofield Park Trailhead. For the East Maroon Route, book a ride to pick up at the town of Gothic. The pick-ups can be easily booked through Alpine Express or Dolly’s (around $20/person). Both companies also offer a drop-off for the return hike or can be booked for a ride all the way back to Aspen.
Hiking & Packing Tips
- Start your hike early in the morning, so you can be over the pass by noon, as thunderstorms are common in the early afternoon.
- Dress for the worst-case scenario. Starting out for a hike on a bluebird Colorado day can quickly shift to rain, lightening and yes, even snow at higher elevations.
- Stick extra layers and socks in your daypack and be ready to shelter overnight if needed.
- Pack a day pack with sunscreen, bandages, cell phone and, for longer distances, and a satellite phone that can alert Mountain Rescue Aspen to any trouble.
- Water is the key ingredient to acclimating and keeping you powered for the adventure ahead.
- Along with water, bring enough food for the duration of your hike, and then some.
For additional information on hiking visit our ‘how to’ guide featuring best hiking practices or visit Aspen Trail Finder, one of our favorite local sites, for an in-depth database of all area hiking trails.