Saturday & Sunday, August 9-10, 2014
Since Diane and I have been spending a lot of time this summer hiking in the San Juan Mountains I figured it was time to get in a weekend of hiking in the Elk Mountains, before it was too late. We left home bright and early on Saturday morning and drove around the Grand Mesa to Marble where we followed the Crystal River past the Crystal Mill and Devil’s Punchbowl towards Schofield Pass. Diane was not a fan of this narrow and rough road, especially when we drove over the sections of large moving rocks. We stopped at the trailhead in Schofield Park so we could start our hike up to West Maroon Pass. Unfortunately, driving over Schofield Pass took a little longer than I remembered, so we arrived later in the morning than I would normally like to start hiking during monsoon season in the mountains. Since we weren’t attempting to climb any peaks on this hike we decided to give it a shot and see what the weather would do. Some darker clouds moved into the sky early on during our hike and we got rained on a few times, but there were no thunderstorms nearby. While there were still plenty of flowers along it trail, it was obvious that wildflower season is definitely coming to and end as many of the flowers were wilted and dying. I bet this hike would have been an amazing sight a few weeks ago!
Schofield Park from the trailhead.
This way to West Maroon Pass.
Diane hiking in the rain.
The intersection with the trail to Frigid Air Pass. From this point on the trail we passed quite a few backpackers who were hiking the Four Pass Loop. This loop is certainly on my list of future backpacking destinations and this hike was a good introduction to the area.
The rocky trail up to West Maroon Pass (12,500 feet). As I neared the pass I heard a very faint distant rumble of thunder, but it wasn’t close enough for me to be concerned about. It would be the only thunder I would hear all day.
View from the pass over East Maroon Creek with Pyramid Peak (14,018 feet) above.
Belleview Mountain (13,323 feet) on the left and Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) in the middle.
A closer look at Maroon Peak.
Looing through the notch at the pass before hiking back down the way I came.
Hiking back down the trail from the pass.
Storms all around. Rain in the distance with light on the hills below.
Still some wildflowers left along the trail, though wilting away quickly. This area probably would have been really a nice a few weeks ago.
Diane hiking ahead of me on the way back down.
After making it back to the trailhead we drove into Crested Butte and had a late lunch at the The Brick Oven Pizzeria and then headed back to Marble via Kebler Pass and McClure Pass.
Abstract aspens along the Kebler Pass Road.
Distant hazy view before dropping down to the North Fork of the Gunnison River below.
After driving through Marble for the second time of the day, we took the Lost Creek Road to Lead King Basin and found a nice campsite along the North Fork of the Crystal River shortly before sunset.
Driving above Silver Creek before descending into Lead King Basin.
A view across the basin towards two unnamed 12,000+ foot peaks.
Great views of Snowmass Mountain (14,092 feet) on the left and Hagerman Peak (13,841 feet) on the right.
Driving down one of the many switchbacks into Lead King Basin.
We found a very nice campsite in the basin right along the creek with Snowmass Mountain in the distance.
Sunset over the North Fork and Snowmass Mountain behind our campsite.
On Sunday morning we woke up with the sunrise and drove a short distance to the Geneva Lake trailhead. We entered the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness again and climbed about 1,500 feet to Geneva Lake near the base of Snowmass Mountain. Besides a few backpackers camped around the lake, we didn’t see anyone else on the trail this morning.
Sunrise view from the door of our tent in the morning.
Entering the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness again.
Early morning sun rays.
This red leaf among all the green really stuck out to me. It reminded me that fall is just around the corner up here.
Still plenty of flowers along this trail, too. Though most of them are wilting away.
Waterfall through the aspen trees.
Looking back over the trail into Lead King Basin.
The light on this flower along the trail with the shaded rock behind caught my eye.
Finally we reached Geneva Lake.
Snowmass Mountain towers above Geneva Lake. One day I will have to return to climb this 14er.
Looking back over the lake towards Crystal Peak and Treasure Mountain.
There were some nice columbines left around the lake.
A large patch of yellow and purple flowers below Meadow Mountain on our way back down.
When we returned to the trailhead we drove back to camp and loaded up our gear before driving back through Marble. We decided to head home through Carbondale and Glenwood Springs so that we could eat lunch at White House Pizza. Diane had been here once before and told me it was very good. She was right! It’s probably the best pizza I have found so far in western Colorado.
A nice view into Bear Basin from the Lead King Basin Road as we drove back out. Crystal Peak (12,632 feet) is on the left.