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Conundrum Hot Springs | Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide

Jake and I have been wanting to do the Conundrum Hot Springs backpacking trip ever since we moved out to Colorado, and it finally came true! This backpacking trip is very rewarding and an even bigger bonus to do it in the Fall.

Everything below is how to plan your own trip to Conundrum Hot Springs!

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Hiking Stats For Conundrum Hot Springs:

  • Distance: 16.7 miles
  • Elevation: 2791 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
  • Type: Out & Back
  • Permit: Yes
  • Bathroom: None
  • Dogs: No (Dogs are allowed up to Silver Dollar Pond, but are NOT allowed past this point)
Silver Dollar Pond

Permit System For Conundrum Hot Springs:

Permits are required for overnight stays for this hike and go quickly. Be sure to plan ahead! But people’s plans change and permits become available up to the day of the hike, so always keep a lookout.

The cost of a permit is $6 and can accommodate up to the maximum amount of people allowed at your campsite which ranges from 2-6 people. There is a maximum of 2 permits per person. There is also a 3 night maximum stay for reserved campgrounds June 1st-September 1st, and a 7-night maximum for all other months.

conundrum hot springs

When registering for a permit, you have the option of adding an alternate permit holder which is advised because the permit holder or alternate permit holder must be present on the hike. Permits are non-transferable once booked. If the permit holder/alternate permit holder is not present, the permit is void.

If you want to change the date or campsite, you must cancel the reservation and pay for a new permit. You have up to a day before your trip to cancel your reservation but will forfeit the $6 fee.

You must have a printed permit and carry a photo I.D. with you at all times on the hike.

Note: Permits were installed in the spring of 2018 because the volume of visitors was overwhelming the hot springs and destroying the ecosystem. So please be very respectful, and don’t go unless you have a permit or only plan to day hike. Remember: Leave No Trace! 

  • Overnight permits for April 1-July 31 are available at 8 a.m. MT on February 15th
  • Overnight permits for August 1-November 30 are available at 8 a.m. MT on June 15th
  • Overnight permits for December 1-March 31 are available at 8 a.m. MT on October 15th

To purchase a permit click Here  (Ranger Stations will not issue permits)

Day Hiking Conundrum Hot Springs:

Day hiking is allowed and does NOT require a permit. I would suggest getting an early start, so you have enough time to enjoy the hot springs and get back down the trail in daylight. This will be a strenuous hike to do in one day, so I would only suggest this to experienced hikers.

Trailhead For Conundrum Hot Springs:

The trailhead is located right outside of Aspen in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. You will turn off Highway 82, follow down Castle Creek Road about 5 miles and then turn onto Conundrum Creek Rd for 1 mile.

You will see many signs stating that there is NO parking along Conundrum Creek Road. The parking lot is not as big as the demand for the hike, so be sure to get there early to ensure a spot. (Carpooling is strongly encouraged.)

The trailhead is not accessible by vehicle from October to June due to snow and avalanche hazard. Also, there is no bathroom located at the trailhead, so be sure to hit a bathroom in town if you can.

Beginning of Hike:


For this hike you will be following Conundrum Creek Trail. The views won’t disappoint from the start of this hike. The beginning of the hike starts with a slight decrease in elevation through the valley and shortly picks up elevation.

The hike is a steady climb the whole way, but the last ¼ mile is the toughest. There is an easy to follow dirt path the whole way up.

River Crossings:

There are 4 river crossings. We went in mid-September, so water levels were low. The first river crossing marks about ⅓ of the hike. There are rocks placed, so you can avoid getting your feet wet.

The second river crossing consists of a bridge that has two large steps and 2 big logs that make it easy to cross the river.

2nd River Crossing

The 3rd river crossing is the most challenging. Since the water was low in fall, there was a fallen tree next to some rocks where you could hop back and forth to keep your balance and your feet dry. But, in spring and early summer, you might have to wade in the water.

The 4th river crossing is right before the hot springs, which again has a log bridge to easily cross over.

Signs Will Direct You To Your Campsite & Hot Springs

Camping At Conundrum Hot Springs:

Campsite Map

As mentioned above, permits are required to stay overnight. There are 20 different campsites to choose from. The maximum occupancy for each site ranges from 2-6 people. When hiking up the trail, you will encounter campsite 20 first and the campsites will count down the closer you get to the hotsprings.

View From Our Campsite (12 & 13)

So, if you want to be closer to the hot springs you will want to aim for campsites 1-8. Campsite 9-20 range from 1/4 mile to 3/4 mile from the hot springs. During peak season (June 1st- September 1st) there is a maximum stay of 3 nights.

Waterfall By Our Campsite

All other times of the year there is a maximum of a 7 night stay. There is also a limit on group sizes not exceeding 10 people even with multiple campsites reserved.

Hot Springs:

The Hot Springs

The Hot Springs have a stunning view down valley.

The springs were around 102 degrees Fahrenheit during our visit. There are different areas in the hot spring that are hotter than others due to the springs producing the new hot water.

You can fit about 30+ people in the hot springs at one time. Try to be really respectful to the area and don’t move rocks or rearrange the hot springs.

The hot springs are clothing optional.

Bear Country:

You are in Bear Country, so be sure to have bear canister or make a bear hang. This applies to every time you go away from your campsite, including when you go soak in the hot springs.

Either carry your food with you, or hang/set your food and scented items away from your campsite. Read our guide to safely hiking in bear country.

Altitude Sickness:


This hike starts at 8,800 feet and climbs up to 11,200 feet. There have been reports of people getting altitude sickness from this hike and it should be taken very seriously.

conundrum hot springs

Do this hike with friends so you can keep an eye on each other. I wouldn’t suggest this being your first hike in the mountains. Try and get used to the elevation before making this climb.

Best Times To Go:

The best time to visit Conundrum Hot Springs is July through September because the temperature will be warmer.

For all other months there is a chance the trail will be covered with snow and temperatures will drop significantly at night. The best time to use the springs will depend on the ambient temperature during your visit. We found the morning and evening soaks to be the most enjoyable when the air cooled off a bit.


As mentioned above, there is no bathroom located at the trailhead. There is also no bathroom along the hike or at the hot springs. Therefore, you must either use a human waste bag and pack it out with you or (use a cathole) dig a hole 6-8 inches in the wilderness.

If you choose this option, make sure it is 200 feet away from any water, campsites, or trails. We like to carry a backcountry shovel long to help dig catholes. Also, please don’t go to the bathroom in the hot springs!


conundrum hot springs

All the campsites are close to Conundrum Creek, where you can collect water to filter. However, we were worried about all the pee, sunscreen, etc getting into the hot spring and then flowing into Conundrum Creek.

If your campsite is uphill from the hot spring (sites 1-11), it should be easy to collect water from Conundrum Creek upstream from the spring. Since our campsite was downstream from the hot spring (sites 12-20), we decided to collect our water up the trail a little ways above the mix point.


The last log bridge you cross before you get to the hot spring is a good spot to collect from. While it may be a pain to make a short hike for your water, its much easier with our favorite water filter, the Platypus GravityWorks water-filter system. It uses a bladder system to collect water, so you can get all the water you need in one trip, and then let gravity do the rest of the work!

Campfires At Conundrum Hot Springs:

There are no campfires allowed, so bring extra layers for nighttime and a camp stove for cooking if you want a hot meal.

Drones are prohibited.

What To Pack For Conundrum Hot Springs Backpacking Trip:

(Links to our favorite items)

For the ultimate packing essentials list, check out our post: Ultimate Backpacking Checklist

Takeaway | Conundrum Hot Springs | Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide:

backpacking conundrum hot springs

This is such a stunning hike and very rewarding. Please be respectful of the area and leave no trace. Take your camera and take a ton of photos.

conundrum hot springs

We strongly encourage to backpack and stay overnight, but if you are unable to get a permit, it’ll be worth the day hike.

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