Loop Route-8 miles RT and 3,800-ft- up Minnehaha Gulch and down the unnamed drainage directly northwest of Maroon Lake
Standard South Ridge Route-9.5 miles RT and 3,800-ft-Up Minnehaha Gulch and back down Minnehaha Gulch.
Starting at the Maroon Creek TH (9,570-ft) locate the Crater Lake Trail and hike 1.69 miles to Crater Lake. At the very east end of the lake the trail splits, leave the Crater lake Trail and take the Maroon/Snowmass Trail (right) and start your ascent up into Minnehaha Gulch. The trail will steepen here and become single track. This trail will eventually lead to Buckskin Pass.
Ascend this trail 1.63 miles and 1,650-ft into the upper ramparts of Minnehaha Gulch and look for the Willow Lake turn-off, it is signed. You can see Buckskin Pass from here but you cannot see Willow Pass. Take the Willow Lake Trail and hike up into the northern spur drainage towards Willow Pass.
At about 12,130-ft and only .36 mile from the Willow Pass/Buckskin Pass turnoff, locate Buckskin Benchmark and the south ridge descending to the left from the summit. The south ridge descends to a saddle that is attainable via an off trail hike from where you are. Leave the trail and head toward the saddle. There are no obstacles such as willows, boulders or stream crossings while hiking off trail. From the saddle at 12,534-ft, ascend a half mile and 500-ft to the summit, easy class 2.
If you’re interested in the recommended loop route, descend the south ridge to 12,734-ft and locate the east ridge. Also, from here locate the two highpoints to the west about a mile away. In between these two high points (Point 12,942-ft being one of them), you will see a saddle, which is where you will want to shoot for. An unnamed drainage descends from this saddle all the way back to the trailhead at Maroon Lake.
From 12,734-ft on the south ridge, descend the connecting east ridge (loose, easy class 3) to another minor ridge that separates the Willow Lake drainage from the northern spur of Minnehaha Drainage. As the descent ends, you will need to traverse this new ridge east, in-between Minnehaha and Willow Lake drainages. This ridge has a few rock towers along the way and can be bypassed on the north side. You could easily descend down into Willow Basin and bypass this entire ridge but you would lose about 250-ft of elevation.
From the south ridge, to the saddle in-between the two highpoints, it is 1.03 miles. Once at the saddle, descend loose talus into the upper drainage. Remember, from here back to the trailhead it is only 1.84 miles and 3,000-ft. It is steep, but it is non-technical. Try to locate an occasional use trail that will help escort you down through the messy rock on this upper portion of slope.
At about 11,500-ft and a half-mile from the saddle, the bouldering ends and you get grassy benches mixed with willows. Locate the path of least resistance, staying more to the right (south) until the slope angle relents at 11,000-ft.
From 11,000-ft, cross to the north side (from the south side) of the slope and locate an important trail that will take you all the way back to the trailhead. It’s not a fat trail, but it is obvious once you find it. If you find this trail, the rest is history. This trail will escort you down the remainder of the slope, including a really steep section of slope. During this stretch it stays high on a narrow ridge, down through the trees. Without the trail, it would be difficult to descend this section.
If your hiking in mid July through mid August be aware of the monsoon season. The Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness participates with the nasty early afternoon thunder and lightning show.