Colorado’s Famed Four Pass Loop Is A Backpacker’s Paradise

The Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop In Colorado Is A Dream Backpacking Destination

Check out the four pass loop hashtag on Instagram and you’ll spend an hour clicking through breathtaking photos of mountains, lakes, sweeping views and wildflowers. If you’re anything like me, even looking at the photos will make you want to give up your life and dedicate yourself to hiking… forever.

If you hike at all, you’ve likely heard of Aspen, Colorado. Rich mountain landscapes, dream hikes, and nature forever… it’s one of the most famous ‘outdoorsy’ escapes in the world.

Image: @la_pocaa on Instagram

Colorado’s legendary Four Pass Loop is a life-changing hike that will take you three to four days. It will also give you enough inspiration and fresh air to keep you going for a year, or however long it takes to come back and do it again.

Knowing The Four Passes That Await You

four pass loop
Image: @sommerhikes on Instagram

The four pass loop is the best of Colorado in a challenging yet stunning hiking and backpacking experience. The hike is a challenge, as you’re making your way through the amazing Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

It will take you three to four days to do this full hike. However, consider taking it easy and extending your trip for the full four days. The scenery is that beautiful. The experience itself has the opportunity to be life-changing.

One thing to know about the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop is that it’s very popular… and very busy. You’ll walk through meadows of wildflowers, breathe in the views of aspen lakes, and walk through lush forests of green trees and incredible air.

four pass loop
Image: @hikeruneatrepeat
on Instagram

You can hike the four pass loop clockwise, or counter-clockwise. One of the best tips we’ve found is to take the counter-clockwise route. It’s more challenging to do it that way. However, if you invest the energy, you’ll have much more solitude and time to just be with the nature around you.

How To Get To Four Pass Loop

four pass loop
Image: @takeawalk_visual on Instagram

The trailhead for the hike starts at Maroon Lake, at the entrance to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. Plug that into your phone and you’re good to go.

You can also park in Aspen and bus in. This is a cheap option, and will only cost you around $6 per day for parking. From there you can hop on the free public Aspen bus to get to Aspen Highland. Then, you’ll have to pay around $8 per adult for a round trip bus ride to the trailhead.

You can park at the Maroon Bells Trailhead. This is the least time consuming… but most crowded option. Make sure you do timing specific research before you go however. You need a parking permit, and you’ll want to book it well in advance as they go fast.

Where To Stay

four pass loop
Image: @lavely2 on Instagram

The camping opportunities on this four day adventure are limitless! There are many places to just set up your tent, with some more popular than others.

The views you’ll get from your tent are incredible! Make sure you’re super well prepared though. The various spots for camping offer different conditions, so you’ll want to make sure you have all of the necessary camping equipment.

Backpacking the loop is a commitment, and one you need to be prepared for. Check for detailed backpacking guides for a safe and fun experience!

Be Aware Of The Seasons

four pass loop
Image: @thibaut_pillot on Instagram

The best time to hike the four pass loop is late summer, before September. Otherwise you’re in snow and rain and if that’s your thing go ahead but it will be harder and the risk of danger is higher. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are huge risks with doing a hike like this. While the risks are mitigated by the other humans on the trail (you can get help) you still need to stay wise.

If you do go outside of the recommended times, there’s a much greater chance of solitude. There won’t be as many people, but the chances of something going wrong are much greater.

As with all wilderness and outdoor experiences, use your head, prepare well, and be careful!

Recommended Times To Visit

four pass loop
Image: @alix.thurman on Instagram

One thing about the loop is that it’s super busy and popular. That’s Colorado for you. If you want a parking spot at the trailhead, you might have to stay overnight. That’s what you get in Colorado.

The backpacking season of the four pass loop stretches from July to October. During this time, the days are still long and warm. Also, during this time you don’t have as much of a chance of getting rained out. Keep in mind however that one of the main benefits of going before September is that the wildflowers are in full bloom. They’re some of the most beautiful you’ll ever see.

Pro tip: If you’re going during thunderstorm season, plan your hikes early in the day!

four pass loop
Image: @kalebbledsoe on instagram

We hope you enjoy this incredible experience of nature! Please, please, PLEASE remember to respect the rules of the trails. Last but not least, remember the golden rule: take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Related: Check out the Catskills waterfalls and hikes just a couple hours outside of NYC.

four pass loop
Image: @amymcharity on Instagram
four pass loop
Image: @travelbrag on Instagram

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