6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
Ideal for backpackers, this long in and out trail near Aspen, Colorado is rated as difficult due to its length and elevation and is recommended only for experienced hikers.
Hikers average 5-8 hours in and 3-6 hours out, making this scenic trek a full-day hike. Though it is considered to be moderately trafficked, the trail is quite popular in the summer and parking near the trailhead is limited.
Due to limited parking space and the length of the trail, it is generally recommended that day-trippers get an early start.
The trail itself begins at an easy grade as it travels through the first meadow, rows of aspens, and alongside Conundrum Creek.
Hikers will have picturesque views of beautiful wildflowers, ponds, and majestic mountains in the distance.
Around 1 hour or so in, hikers will come to their first major creek crossing with a wide wooden bridge that can be used to traverse the water.
This is the first of a number of creek crossings, some with bridges and some with only a rope to guide hikers across the waters which are at times cold and deep (hikers may want to consider bringing a change of shoes and/or socks as they are very likely to get wet due to creek crossings or even snow and slush).
Though the first portion of the trail is over a fairly easy incline, it begins at a higher elevation (some altitude adjustment/sickness may occur in those not acclimated to higher elevations) and the last few miles become steeper as the trail climbs higher into the mountains.
Near the end of the trail, there will be a sign pointing to campsites for those backpacking overnight and a sign pointing to the hot springs for those wishing to dip in and relax in their warming waters (hikers may want to bring flip flops or water shoes for going to hot springs).
It should be noted that camping is only allowed in designated areas.
Campers should have bear canisters to store food in order to ensure there are no unwanted animal visitors.
There are no campfires allowed in the upper campgrounds, so those staying overnight should bring freeze-dried or already prepared foods that don’t require cooking over a fire.
Trash is carry in/carry out—hikers should be mindful to keep the wilderness lands pristine and free of waste.
Rangers regularly patrol the area and enforce the rules.
The best period to travel this trail is from June to September, though there may still be slush or snow on the trail into June.
There is high avalanche danger in this area during the winter months, but even into spring hikers should check conditions and use snowshoes should there still be deep snowpack.