Day 4: (5 miles)
If you missed Day 1 thru 3 of Hiking Colorado’s Four Pass Loop you can start here.
We had been on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop for 3 exhausting, but incredible days. We chose to do some night photography in this remote locale at Snowmass Lake. The highlight of which was hearing a rock slide come crashing down into the lake from the jagged Snowmass mountainside. It was exhilarating.
I also choose to rise with the sun and get some additional shots of the early morning light illuminating the Snowmass terrain. I then crashed back into the tent for most of the morning. As a result, we didn’t leave camp until about 10:30 am, which isn’t the best idea when you have to cross a pass above the treeline. Our backup plan was to camp on the west side of Buckskin Pass if any inclement weather did roll in. Luckily, it was a beautiful day and we made it to our intended campsite on the east side of the pass.
Back on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop
From our Snowmass campsite, we headed east following the trail adjacent to the lakes runoff. After about a 1/8th of a mile, we came to an intersection where we proceeded east towards Buckskin Pass on the Maroon-Snowmass Trail (#1975). This trail ventures up a ridge to another intersection where the path to the right returns you back to Snowmass Lake and the left continues towards Buckskin Pass. We headed left and followed the trail as it slowly ascended through a dense pine forest.
Through the Bog
The path then descends slightly into a flat boggy meadow with expansive views of the surrounding terrain. There is a very large beaver dam here holding back the waters of Snowmass Creek creating a fairly large lake. The trail skirts the north side of the lake and passes many campsites along the way.
If you choose to camp here I would think you had better have a lot of bug spray, but it did look like a nice area. A short detour to the north will lead you to the cascading runoff from the lake that then pours into another swampy lake.
Continuing the climb on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop
Back on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop, the trail continues to follow the northern edge of the lake. As it nears the end of the lake it splits to the left and starts to steadily climb up the ridge to the north-east of the lake. The trail leads back into a dense forest where switchbacks climb steeply through the woods.
The Lost Remuda Basin
Once the trail tops the ridge it opens up to the Lost Remuda Basin with clear views ahead of Buckskin Pass looming above. The path crosses over and then follows a small stream for a short distance. This area has a few good-looking campsites. These will be the last before the trail is back at tree-line on the eastern side of Buckskin Pass so if the weather looks rough this is a good place to call it a day.
Climbing up to Buckskin Pass
We continued up the pass. Once past the creek, the trail climbs east along the left side of a boulder field before cutting back to the north. From there the climb consists of a few long switchbacks and I found it to be one of the easiest ascents on the entire loop. The pass itself rounds off on a large saddle so the best views back to the west of the Lost Remuda Basin and Snowmass Mountain are found during the ascent and not at the top.
Once at the top of the 12,462′ Buckskin pass we were rewarded with views south-east towards Pyramid Peak and the familiar Maroon Bells to the south. We quickly took in the scenery as the wind was howling and rather cold for August.
Descending Buckskin Pass
We then headed down the eastern side of the pass. The trail descends quickly on fairly tight switchbacks through terrain covered with wildflowers. Before long we came to another intersection. The path to the left headed to Willow Pass. We kept to the right and continued to descend on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop trail. Before long the path reaches a stream and follows it into Minnehaha Gulch located at tree-line.
Minnehaha Gulch has lots of loose rock making up the trail so watch your footing as you descend the trail. There are lots of dispersed camping areas scattered throughout the woods around the Gulch. We found ours on a ridge-line just to the north of the trail several hundred feet beyond the trail. It wasn’t overly scenic and didn’t have great access to water, but this is the last area to camp while on Colorado’s Four Pass Loop so we made do.