More specifically, Conundrum Creek trail up to Triangle Pass, down to Copper Lake, up to East Maroon Pass and down East Maroon Creek.
The route can actually be completed in either direction, in our case Todd Clark, Christy and I began the day at the Conundrum Creek Trailhead (8800 ft.) and ran most of the popular trail up 8 miles or so to the famous hot springs (11,200 ft.) that bear the trails name. FYI, the lowest (1st) bridge is out, likely due to high creek flows this spring so you will get wet.
Once past the hot springs, continue up the trail as it becomes more faint and steeper, for about 2 miles, to Triangle Pass at 12,800 (about 45 minutes). The Upper Conundrum Valley is a cool place and while the hot springs and lower trail can be extremely crowded by wilderness standards around here, there often isn’t a soul to be seen up and beyond.
The wildflowers seemed to be at or near a peak on Sunday, later than usual but not unexpected as it took much longer for the snows to melt this year.
Take in the view. Castle Peak and the “Ridge of Gendarmes” that descends from its summit is particularly impressive.
From Triangle, descend west on the rocky trail to treeline, to Copper Lake. At this point you are actually closer to Crested Butte than to Aspen. Find the trail(signed) that climbs above the lake up to East Maroon Pass. It’s an easy climb, only a few hundred vertical feet to the mellow, grassy pass. We opted to take a short break and fill up on water here before beginning the long run down the East Maroon trail.
Nine mostly downhill miles and two big creek crossings later and you’ll arrive at the East Maroon Trailhead, just off the Maroon Creek Road. With Conundrum Creek’s backdrop of Castle, Cathedral, and Raoul peaks in the morning, followed up with the East Maroon Creek’s lineup of Len Shoemaker, Thunder, and Pyramid Peaks in the afternoon, there’s no shortage of scenery out here.
Christy’s new little Garmin Forerunner GPS had us at 22.77 miles. Not bad, especially as a before work jaunt for Todd and me.
While it isn’t required, we shuttled a car to the finish the night before and then drove back around to get Todd’s truck. If you can get a ride up to Conundrum Creek TH in the morning you can just hail the Maroon Bells bus which will take you down to Aspen Highlands.
On a side note, if a backcountry experience is what you seek then the hot springs might not be the best choice of weekend getaway. I’ve heard this is the single most popular place to camp in the entire Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. If there’s a common theme in the countless stories heard around town aside from the all night partying, odd people and/or general weirdness, it’s that naked guys always seem to emerge from the trees to jump in the tub when a girl shows up. That doesn’t work well with Christy.