Colorado Resort Adventure Guide

South West Region
Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO

by Dawn Janov
View of Mt. Evans in Colorado

One of the most photographed sites in all of North America, the Maroon Bells mountain peaks near Aspen ranks high as a visitor “must see” Colorado attraction. The two peaks are within the 174,000-acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, an elevation ranging from 7,500 feet to 14,265 feet, and encompassing nine hiking passes over 12,000 feet. This wilderness area lies in both the White River and Gunnison National Forests.

Take you back pack, fill it with sun screen, bottles of water, a light lunch or energy bars, a windbreaker, your camera with extra film and set out for one of the 100 + miles of hiking and horse trails that fits your need.

You’ll pass by the mirror-like reflective Maroon Lake, through huge stands of aspens that open up to lush green high meadows filled with a multitude of wildflowers and just beyond, the spruce, fir and pine forests. Watch for Mule Deer and Elk along the way. Listen to the birds, a squirrel chatter, or the scurry of a chipmunk or ground squirrel and the wind as it wanders through the trees. Smell the pines and fragile wildflowers. If you're lucky, you can see the sun rise, lighting up the mountain, or enjoy the beautiful cloud set in a rosy alpenglo at the end of the day.

Look up and see the mountains towering above with ribbons of multi-strata from eons past. The mountain rises at sharp angles to form the rough "bell" peaks that almost all year are dotted with white patches of snow. Remember to drink lots of water and take frequent breaks to allow your body to adjust to the change in altitude.

Be aware that the forest service restricts vehicle traffic up to the Lake during the busy summer months. A great alternative is to buy an inexpensive bus ticket and enjoy the ride. If you're looking for a quiet time, make plans to visit after Labor Day or during the weekdays in the busy summer season.

  • Season: Daily, Memorial Day to through Labor Day After that, Friday, Saturday,
        Sunday through mid-October (depending on snowfall)
  • Admission: Free - By bicycle, foot, horse, inline skater, or dryland
    cross-country skier
    $10 Fee - By car (no vehicles between 9am-5pm, except for disabled
    Golden Access free pass)
    Free - Golden Age Pass before 9am and after 5pm
    By bus tour - Adult $6, child (6-16) and senior $3
    Bus leaves throughout the day from Aspen Highlands Village
    Ticket purchase: Pro Mountain Sports in Aspen Highlands Village,
    Ruby Park in Aspen,
    Aspen Mountain Gondola Ticket Office in Aspen
  • Hours: Open 24 hours during season
  • Directions: from Aspen: Drive 1/2 mile west of Aspen on Highway 82 to the
    roundabout where you turn onto Maroon Creek Road. Continue 9 1/2 miles
    to the Maroon Lake Parking Area.
  • Address: Aspen Ranger District, 806 West Hallam, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Phone: Roaring Fork Transit Agency at 970-925-8484, or
    the Aspen Ranger Station at 970-925-3445.

photos used by permission Sharon & Bob photographers

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