Maroon Bells

Taken at Crater Lake
Photo courtesy of Kara Brown

Time to complete: 2 hours
Distance from Denver: 169 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Summary: The most photographed mountains in North America and most photographed landscape in Colorado, Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness is one of the top destinations to visit offering trails, hikes, fishing, camping and more.

The wilderness area of Maroon Bells is breathtaking with the reflecting waters and the mountains surrounding the lake. It is especially beautiful during the fall season. The fall colors create a magical feeling.

In order to get to the Maroon Bells lake, there is a parking lot less than a quarter mile on Maroon Creek Road. However, parking is limited and sometimes restricted. So in that case, you can take a shuttle at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, which leaves every 20 minutes and will take you there and back for $6.

If you are just looking for a scenic view of Maroon Bells you can enjoy one of the most famous views in North America with the shuttle ride and a picnic.

However if you are looking for more adventure, the Maroon Bells area offers a two mile hike that leads north to Crater Lake. It is a moderate level hike with a 600 foot gain in elevation. The trail is mostly a dirt path and rocky in some areas.

Crater Lake offers a peaceful vibe to relax, have a picnic and maybe even do some yoga. If you are wanting more, the trail continues after Crater Lake which leads into a trail from Aspen to Crested Butte and also a backpacking trail called the Four-Pass Loop.

Maroon Bells also offers campgrounds for $25 a night. Reservations may be made in advance or you can show up in hopes that a campsite is available. The campgrounds give you driving access to the parking lot adjacent to the Maroon Bells Lake and an awesome place to spend a night with nature.

Silver Bell is one of the campgrounds that offer a spacious spot for your tent. The campgrounds include a picnic table, restrooms, a fire pit, a bear lock, and of course a beautiful view.

In addition to campgrounds offered at Maroon Bells, dispersed campsites are also available throughout the White River National Forest.

This fall season is the time to go because of the amazing views and scenery. Although this is the most crowded time of year, the dense forest and vast area takes you away from people.

Time is still on your side. Maroon Bells is open until the beginning of November and will reopen in mid-May, depending on weather. One thing you will not regret is going before it closes because now is the most scenic time with the fall colors and cool weather.

After a day in the White River National Forest, an appetite can easily be worked up. In downtown Aspen, about a 15 minute drive from Maroon Creek Road, they offer all types of restaurants to fit your needs.

If you are looking for a beer and local atmosphere, Zane’s Tavern is a great option as it serves to be one of the last standing local bars open in Aspen. And if you are getting off the trail late the kitchen is open until midnight.

If you are looking for a more upscale dining experience Ellina is the place to go, in the heart of downtown Aspen, offering a bar and dining menu of American cuisine and an award winning wine selection.

A great side note is that Aspen is a pet friendly town! Therefore hotels, restaurants, stores and hikes offer amenities for your best friend.

The journey is just as important as the destination and on the way to the Maroon Bells, Independence Pass is the way to travel, known as the highest paved pass in North America.

Not only does it have incredible scenic views, but the Continental Divide is also on this pass. There is a pull over parking lot next to the Continental Divide sign which stands in front of the Rocky Mountains and beautiful lake, in addition to a short pathway of the incredible view.

Maroon-Bells Snowmass Wilderness is a scenic drive from Denver and a destination that will never be forgotten!

Click here to check out the amazing photos from my trip!


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