Snowmass Creek Trailhead to Geneva Lake Trailhead
(17 miles, +4,600/-3,400 feet).
Time again for my annual trip with MixMaster and ChiaGlyph. Woo hoo!
So far we’ve done the Trans-Zion Trek and Paria Canyon. This time we decided to head for Chia’s home turf, Colorado. Chia has had his eye on the famous “Four Pass Loop” around the Maroon Bells near Aspen. I have also been interested in this hike ever since I read about it on a business trip to Aspen.
The traditional version of this hike is only 28 miles, so for us it would only take 2 days tops. To spice things up a bit, we decided to extend it quite a bit, jumping from 4 to 8 passes, and increasing the distance above 50 miles. We have budgeted 4 days to do it, but today went really well so I suspect we will do it in three.
Yesterday, MixMaster and I flew to Denver and then drove out to Snowmass, Colorado, where he and Chia had a reunion with an old college buddy late into the evening.
At a (surprisingly) early hour, we got up this morning, got organized, and were on trail by 9am.
We were worried the weather would be too hot to hike, but the trail starts above 8,000 feet and meanders through forests for the first few miles, protecting us from the sun. Wildflowers were absolutely everywhere!
There is water everywhere on this hike, even though it’s a low snow year here.
We gradually worked our way up to some beautiful meadows along Snowmass Creek.
After getting just slightly lost (I caused us to take a wrong turn towards Buckskin Pass) we quickly got back on track and took a nice long break at the extremely photogenic Snowmass Lake.
After lunch we continued climbing above the lake.
At about 11,600 feet we broke above treeline and started aiming for Trail Rider Pass on a twisty trail that wound through alpine gardens.
By 2:30pm we were on top of the pass, with views of Snowmass Lake on one side and the distant Treasure Mountains on the other.
While we soaked in the views, a very large group was collecting on top of the pass with us, coordinated by a 20-something on a walkie-talkie. One feature of today’s hike was a big increase in the number of people on trail where our trip coincided with the traditional Four Pass Loop between Snowmass Lake and the turnoff for Buckskin Pass. I can certainly see why there are so many people here, and I don’t mean to be selfish, but it was nice to leave the beaten path after a while.
On the way down from the pass we encountered a solo traveler and his very small black dog heading up. I waited for them to go by, and the dog took the opportunity to wait in the shade of my umbrella while his master caught up!
The hike in the basin below Trail Rider was extremely scenic, with beautiful alpine meadows, a gorgeous tarn, and fluorescent green hillsides framing huge piles of vast gray marble.
The traditional loop heads left down to the Crystal River, but we turned right towards Geneva Lake.
The inlet for Geneva Lake was wide and gentle, but we could not quite figure out how to cross with our feet dry.
We were originally thinking of camping at Geneva Lake, but it was quite buggy and not nearly as nice as Snowmass, so we decided to press on.
When we got down to the Geneva Lake trailhead, there was really only one good campsite and it was already occupied by a camper van. It looked like there was some great camping up on a ridge above us, but it was over 1,000 feet of climbing and we were all pretty wiped, so we found a not-too-slopey area next to the river and called it a day.
Although the flies were really bad, the mosquitoes were not, and it felt good to eat dinner and retire early to read and then to dream.