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How To – Pack for Trail Running the Four Pass Loop In One Day

Kelly Gazarik has been meticulously planning to undertake the challenging Four Pass Loop, a 27.4 mile route in the heart of the picturesque Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado. This July, Kelly is going to face this test of endurance by attempting to run the entire trail in one day. In addition to the 27.4 miles, the Four Pass Loop also includes an impressive 7,734 feet of elevation gain, ascending and descending the four passes that punctuate the route. Connect with Kelly on Instagram at @k52banana and donate to her campaign here.

Quick Stats

Total Mileage: 27.4 miles
Trail Shape: Lollipop
Trip Length: 1 day 
Trailhead: Maroon Lake (39.0986° N, 106.9407° W)
Closest town to trailhead: Aspen
Ending point:  Maroon Lake 
Closest town to trailend: Aspen
Dogs Allowed: On some parts 
Permit Required: For overnight stays 

Pre-Trip Thoughts

I am so excited to trail run the Four Pass Loop! This is something I have had on my bucket list since moving to Colorado because of the incredible mountain scenery, the iconic Maroon Bells, and the gorgeous alpine lakes. This adventure will be one of my longest one day adventures, it is at high elevation, and it has lots of exposed rock. Like the name says, four passes, each over 12,000 ft! I am making sure I carry sufficient gear, food, and first aid supplies because of the exposure to diverse weather conditions and remoteness.

What I’m Packing and Why

Proper gear is critical for any successful adventure. I need to make sure I am strategic with what I pack. I have to balance safety and comfort with the very limited amount of space I have in my running vest. What works for me might not work for you and that is ok. I am constantly experimenting with what I bring and how I pack my vest. 

  • Trail Running Shoes – Trail running shoes offer more traction, support, and stability to help tackle technical terrain. These will be so important on the steep and rocky passes. Our suggestion: HOKA Speedgoat 5 
  • Trail Running Gaiters – Lightweight gaiters that attach to my shoes to protect my feet from dirt, rocks, and mud. Our suggestion: REI Swiftland 
  • Running Vest & Hydration Pack – 12L running vest to carry food, water, and all my gear. On longer runs it’s important to keep hydrated and keep up my energy! Sometimes water sources are scarce so I will have 3L water capacity. Our suggestion: Salomon Adv Skin 12 
  • GPS Running Watch – A watch that measures my heart rate, distance, pace, and elevation gain. I can download a GPS map of my route on my watch so I can track my progress day of. Our suggestion: Garmin Fenix 7 
  • Satellite Phone – A satellite messenger that allows me to send text messages, my location, and SOS alerts. This trail will have little to no cellular service so I am relying on my satellite phone to communicate with my support team.  Our suggestion: Garmin inReach Mini 2 
  • Waterproof Running Jacket– Lightweight waterproof jacket that offers protection during bad weather. I prefer ones that can pack small and have some amount of breathability. Our suggestion: Patagonia Houdini 
  • Hat – Lightweight breathable hat to protect my head and face from the sun, sleet, and rain. 
  • Neck Gaiter –  A sweat-wicking neck gaiter to protect myself from the elements. This is a very versatile item that can be used several different ways like a headband or a bandage. Our suggestion: Buff CoolNet UV 
  • Sunglasses – It is always a good idea to protect your eyes especially during a full day outside in the Colorado sunshine.  Mine are polarized to help see trails and obstacles when there is a lot of glare.  Our suggestion: Goodr
  • Extra pair of running socks – The trail reports show lots of sun melt and high creek crossing. I’ll be bringing an extra pair of socks to try and keep my feet dry and prevent blisters. Our suggestion: Balega Blister Resist 
  • Gloves – Running gloves that will keep my hands warm during the first few hours before the sun has risen. Our suggestion: Seirus Heatwave Liner 
  • Headlamp – A flashlight that you can wear around your head like a headband. This will be critical as it allows us to run before the sun has risen and after the sun has set. Our suggestion: Black Diamond Spot 400 
  • Running Poles – Lightweight trekking poles. I found these help me climb hills faster and more efficiently. Our suggestion: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles 
  • Water filter – Hydration is key and I will need to fill up my water during this adventure. A filter allows me to drink stream water safely. Our suggestion: Sawyer Mini 
  • Sunscreen – I always wear and bring sunscreen to protect me from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It is no joke, especially at high elevation. Our suggestion: Sun Bum Mineral 
  • First Aid Kit – A basic first aid kit with the essentials to help myself or others in the case of an injury or an emergency. Our suggestion: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight 
  • Electrolytes – Dissolvable salt tablets to help prevent cramping especially in the heat. Our suggestion: Nuun 
  • Food – Trail running nutrition is different for everyone. There are so many choices to help fuel you on long runs. I’ll be taking several gels, energy waffles, bars, and a few pieces of candy to keep me fueled and motivated. Our suggestion: Huma Chia Energy Gels 

Final Thoughts

My journey to trail running the Four Pass Loop has been full of ups and downs. This challenge has always excited me and scared me because of its length and huge amount of elevation.  I am so grateful to have an opportunity this summer to give it my best effort! This is such a special adventure because it feels like a culmination of my last three years of training. To the incredible community that helped me get this far, thank you!! 

If you’d like to support Kelly in reaching her goal of fundraising $2000 and help the next generation of explorers, please donate to her campaign

Kelly stands center frame in front of big mountains, there is smoke in the air.
Kelly smiles towards the camera with a stream and moutains behind her. She is carrying a backpack and wearing hiking clothes.
Kelly Gazarik
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Kelly is a Colorado transplant who grew up on the east coast as part of a very active family. Growing up backpacking, skiing, climbing, and whitewater rafting, leading her first backpacking trip when she was only in high school, and getting more involved with higher peaks in college, Kelly is an avid outdoor enthusiast. Today, she primarily enjoys her time outside through trail running and backpacking, often with friends and her dog, Bear. Kelly also enjoys making pottery in her free time and giving back to STEM communities such as the Society of Women Engineers.