This is a great route that connects Mt. Crested Butte
ski area to downtown Aspen in just under 30 miles via the Copper Creek Trail #983
and East Maroon Creek Trail #1983
to cross over at the 11,825' East Maroon Pass. This trail can be done in either direction and is steady in incline and decline with most of the route on old forest service and mining roads when on trail.
This is one of a few options between Aspen and Mt. Crested Butte
(West Maroon Pass and Conundrum Creek Trail), but this route is likely the shortest logical path between the two towns.
The run begins at the Mt. Crested Butte
at the Mountaineer Square shuttle stop. You start on Gothic Road and head into the mountains. After about 2 miles, you leave Mt. Crested Butte
and continued on a prepared dirt road. You may see some livestock along the way that are grazing on and next to the road through past the village of Gothic and the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory at about 5 miles in.
The trailhead for the Copper Creek Trail #983
has a forest service toilet there. You run up the 4WD road to official Copper Creek trailhead and then transition on to trail. There is about 1/2 mile of singletrack trail through the RM Bio Laboratory land prior to rejoining back onto old FS roads that are now dedicated trail. There may be livestock present for the first few miles, but even if they are on the trail, they don't have a problem letting you pass.
You'll start to climb up toward Copper Lake, with one moderate stream crossing around 10 miles in. The grade of the trail increases as you get closer to the lake and is steepest prior to the pass as you emerge above the treeline. As you clear the treeline, you get great views of Copper Lake around 11.5 miles from start as you traverse towards the pass.
The final climb up to the pass is moderate and easily managed. The pass is 12.5 miles from start and has great views of the valley you'll run through towards Aspen.
On the Aspen side, the grade is less steep and you have a singletrack trail for a few miles on the East Maroon Creek Trail #1983
while above the treeline. You get to the trees in about 1.5 miles and the trail is generally easy to follow, with the exception of the split for East Maroon Pass and Copper Pass Spur #1983.1
where it pays to have a map and continue heading downhill.
Further down the mountain, the trail continues with a steady downhill grade with several opportunities to refill water in Maroon Creek. There are two moderate stream crossings where there was little hope of keeping your feet dry, but you may be able to find a log or stones that can get you across. There are some scenic opportunities to view Maroon Peak from the east as you pass through glades that have been cleared by avalanches.
At just over 22 miles, you'll hit the trailhead and a forest service bathroom. Maroon Creek here is one of the last opportunities to refill water prior to the 8 mile run into Aspen.
You'll take Maroon Creek Road all the way into Aspen. Around 2.5 miles from Aspen, you can transition onto a paved pedestrian path that runs mostly parallel to the road, with a few fly-over crossings. There are signs that direct you towards downtown Aspen, although this route will keep you on Maroon Creek Road until the traffic circle. At this point, the path into town is easy to follow, and you can follow the pedestrian path roughly parallel to 82 / W Hallam Street, over the vehicle bridge, and into town.
The route finishes on Main Street which has many options for lodging and food once you get in to town.
Buses: In Crested Butte, you can use the free CB Mountain Express Town shuttle to get to the Mountaineer Square, and in Aspen, you can move around on the free Aspen RFTA which has multiple routes.
Lots of livestock near Gothic. You may also see Moose in this area. Above treeline, you'll hear the calls of Marmots and Pika