Sunday, October 9, 2016

East Snowmass Trail

Distance: 5 miles round trip (out of a possible 17 miles)
Elevation: 8,360 ft - 9,676 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,316 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: On leash (Wilderness)
Tags: #maroonbells, #coloradooutdoors, #hiking

Rare open view along the lower portion of the East Snowmass Trail
The East Snowmass Trail, near the Snowmass Ski Resort is a long connector trail mostly used by backpackers. It technically ends at Willow Lake, on the other side of East Snowmass Pass, 8.5 miles away. Day hikers can go as far as they want, however. I ended up on this trail on a drizzly day in Snowmass when I needed some exercise close by.

The East Snowmass Trail is entirely in the trees. Sometimes it ascends through dense Lodgepole, other times through towering Spruce and Fir and at other times through airy Aspens.  In many places a dense undergrowth crowds the trail, which in fall contains multi-colored berries. The trail is pretty much a continuous climb with a few lung busting segments.

Typical segment in a Lodgepole forest
There are a couple of minor milestones on this short excursion. It is 0.73 miles to the Wilderness boundary and 1.3 miles to the junction of the Snowmass Ditch Trail.

Example of an area in Aspens
East Snowmass Creek is ever present but in most cases far below the hiker. Still its calming sounds can be heard drifting upwards and echoing off the valley walls. The trail passes through one or two "clearings", which consist of open areas filled with tall grasses. Most were on steep slopes with occasional views down valley or of the ruby red eastern wall. We stopped for lunch in one of these clearings and had a hard time finding a place to sit, the grasses were so high.

Dogwood (Cornus sericea). Can grow over 6 feet tall. The berries persist into winter. 
Mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina).
To get to the trailhead, head west out of Snowmass and veer right onto Divide Road at the end of the valley. Just past the Krabloonik Restaurant restaurant, the road becomes dirt and heads sharply downwards. While passable with a passenger car, the road does have several sharp switchbacks and contains some clay, which will make it tricky when wet. The road forks while still descending. Stay to the left. The trailhead is only 100 yards beyond the fork. Park on the side of the road by the kiosk.


Irene Shonle said...

I've lurked on your site a long time, and much appreciate your great trail descriptons! I've checked out a number of them, so thank you so much. Just thought I'd give a couple friendly corrections -- the plants in your pics are dogwood (Cornus sericea) and mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina).

sylvia murphy said...

Thanks Irene! I updated the photos to reflect this. Now I know who to call for my CO shrub identification!