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VIDEO: Backpacking Buckskin Pass to Snowmass Lake, Colorado


Trip Type: Overnight, out-and-back

Location: Maroon Lake Trailhead (Google Map)

Length: 8.5 miles one way, 17 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Start-End Elevation: 9,580' - 10,980' (12,462' max elevation on Buckskin Pass)


- Bear Canister REQUIRED

- Campfires generally PROHIBITED

- Cross pass BEFORE NOON to avoid thunderstorms

- Per-car FEE required to access Maroon Lake trailhead


If you want to see the dazzling sites within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest without completing the Four-Pass Loop, this overnight is for you!

This backpacking trip in the Colorado wilderness features mountain-encircled alpine lakes, 360º views at 12,462’ Buckskin Pass, lush wildflower meadows, and unbeatable backcountry campsites.



Since this area is so scenic, it has become an extremely popular choice among visitors, causing rampant over-crowding and environmental degradation by those who don't respect the wilderness. If you decide to take on this overnight, PLEASE remember to LEAVE NO TRACE, stay in designated campsites, do not cut down live trees for firewood, and PACK OUT what your PACK IN.

Watch this quick video from the USFS to learn how to be a responsible visitor to the wilderness. :)

SO with all that in mind, let's get started with a basic list of what to bring on this trip...

Recommended Gear:

  • Backpack

  • Trekking poles

  • Sleeping bag + pad

  • Proper footwear

  • Map (purchase here)

  • Bearcan

  • Wilderness permit (free)

  • Per-car fee to access trailhead

  • Water/filter

  • Calorie-rich food + snacks

  • Stove + fuel (many campsites prohibit campfires)

  • Layered clothing + waterproof outerwear (weather is very fickle and can change w/out warning)

  • Headlamp

  • Hat/sunglasses/sunscreen (there is a lot of exposure)

Now of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. It’s especially important to remember to hydrate to prevent altitude sickness, and protect your skin from the stronger UV radiation due to higher altitudes.

If you’re properly prepared and knowledgeable, you will have no problem completing this trip. Just make sure you know your limits, as well as give yourself plenty of time to acclimate to the altitude ;)

Short on time?

Try the equally strenuous day-trip version of this journey. From the Maroon Lake trailhead, hike the 4.6 miles up to Buckskin Pass and return back to Maroon Lake for a 9.2 mile roundtrip adventure.

Virtual Hike:

Now that you know the basics, let’s take an in-depth look at this superb overnight backpacking trip in the video below:

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