We are using the Snowmass Creek trailhead as the start for this easy backpack approach. You will be better off parking your vehicle there than trying to find a place to cram it in right at the E. Snowmass Creek TH start, which you passed on your drive in to the Snowmass Creek TH. Just walk back a quarter mile on the road to begin your trip. On the White River NF map, the trail number for East Snowmass Creek is 1977 and heads south to eventually go over a pass into Willow Lake Basin. This approach will take you about 3/5ths of the distance to that pass. This trip that nets two 13ers in a less-often visited area of the Elk Mountains, works very well as an "overnight," weekend backpack. Pack in on day one and climb one of the peaks, then day two, climb the other and pack out.
The backpack in is uneventful and takes about two and a half hours. The trail starts out fairly steep as it gains the upper valley and the creek drainage. It climbs about 600 feet in the first half mile and after that begins to taper off. From a starting elevation of 8,400 ft., backpack to an elevation of about 11,160 ft. The trail is well-used but not too entrenched or rocky and you should have no trouble following it, even when it passes through willowy areas. Some of the vegetation when we were there in early September was beginning to show signs of fall with hints of changing colors. After passing through the wide swath of an avalanche path that comes off of Willoughby and an open meadow by the creek, the trail enters back in some forest and begins to climb more steeply as it departs close proximity to the creek and gains elevation for the upper basin. Just where the trail enters the forest and begins this climb, we found a very nice, unoccupied campsite, nestled in the trees with plenty of protection from the rain. Set up your camp and if the weather is holding, we suggest climbing Willoughby Peak first, since it is right above this campsite.
See approximate coordinates provided.
N 39° 08' 54", W 106° 58' 55"
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