We invite you to join us and enjoy the spectacular hiking experience we offer. Whether you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to cross off your bucket list or simply seeking to better understand the wild areas that bless your own backyard, we can take you there. We are happy to customize the itinerary to your unique needs, help you select the right gear and answer all your questions about this special experience.
Will you join us this summer on the hike between Crested Butte and Aspen?
The Elk Mountains are quintessential Colorado: tightly-packed jagged mountain peaks colored red, white, gray and purple, glacial valleys scarred by avalanches in the winter, bubbling merrily with creeks and rivers in the summer, crystal blue lakes filling alpine cirques, haunted by ghosts of Ute Indian hunting camps and old mining towns with names mostly forgotten, and filled with wildlife including elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and black bears. We love the wildflowers the most, however, carpeting the valleys, climbing the foothills, punctuating the rocky crags, and beckoning from trailside to be admired and enjoyed.
Contained in one of Colorado’s largest wilderness areas, the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, access is limited to foot travel, either human or horse. No dirt bikes, ATV’s or even mountain bikes are allowed. With over 100 miles of trails, there are plenty of remote sanctuaries for the avid hiker to explore.
On the northern border of this magnificent wilderness is the popular town of Aspen and on the southern edge, in the upper Gunnison River Valley are the sister towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. Both Aspen and Crested Butte were founded in the late 1800’s, mining towns born from the rich mineral deposits extracted from the mountains nearby. Today these towns share another precious treasure: deep winter snows and the great skiing that comes with it. Summers are grand in both towns as the snows retreat to the high mountain peaks and hiking trails cross colorful meadows filled with wildflowers and hummingbirds. While it takes 170 miles of highway to travel between Aspen and Crested Butte, it takes less than 15 miles by hiking trails.
The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, in partnership with Colorado Backcountry, is offering a limited number of hikers the chance to experience these mountains, their flowers and wildlife, up-close and personal, with the service of an expert guide. The National Forest Service limits hiker permits to a total of 50 per year for Colorado Backcountry for this event. Most hikers travel with family and friends in small groups and all of them are accompanied by a professional guide with over a decade of experience. The guides do all the works so hikers can enjoy the experience, never worried about having to check their trail maps, shuttle schedules, or watches.
Along the way hikers learn about every aspect of the journey and the wilderness area that it traverses. They learn why Crested Butte, designated the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, is home to such a dense, stunning array of colorful flowers. They discover for themselves what brought the early people to these areas. The mountains become their classroom as they begin to understand the slow geologic transformations that allowed gold, silver and coal to form millions of years ago and the changing climate forces that affect the annual cycles of the elk, marmot, hummingbird and bumblebee in the present day.
There are actually two trails that connect Crested Butte and Aspen, the West Maroon Trail and the East Maroon Trail. The West maroon trail is well-travelled and is an especially popular hike from the town of Aspen to the site of the most photographed peaks in the United States, the Maroon Bells. The East Maroon trail is more popular with bears, elk, and beaver than people, but no less accessible, especially with a good guide. In both directions an excellent meal and a soft bed for replenishment and reflection await the wilderness traveler.
From the Crested Butte side of the Elk Range, we will enter the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, ascend West Maroon Pass, cross the Elk Mountain Divide and then descend beneath the dramatic flanks of Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. We walk beside Crater and Maroon Lakes, with the spectacular beauty of the Maroon Bells reflected in the crystal-clear waters. The combination of lush vegetation, colorful wildflowers, alpine tundra, sweeping vistas and diverse geology is unrivaled.
Once we arrive in Aspen you may relax and re-fuel in one of the dozens of gourmet restaurants or casual cafes (meal not included) and return to Crested Butte via shuttle bus. Alternately, you may book a room in one of Aspen's numerous lodgings and continue your guided hike home to Crested Butte the following day. For the return trip we recommend a different route: the forest character and alpine charm of the less-travelled East Maroon Pass, which completes the round-trip wilderness experience of a lifetime.
With an elevation gain/loss of 2000/3000 feet and a max elevation of 12,500 feet you need to be very fit and able to walk many miles at a stretch across loose, rocky surfaces. Children must be at least 16 years of age. Bring sturdy hiking shoes (broken-in), and a knapsack with lunch, snacks, water, rain gear, hat, warm layers, and sunscreen.
Will you join us this summer on the guided hike between Crested Butte and Aspen?