Top 5 Reasons to Visit Maroon Bells

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Maroon Bells

If you haven't heard of Maroon Bells yet, it's a good thing you're reading this blog. Maroon Bells is one of the most iconic spots in Colorado, mainly because of the amazing views that require no hike at all and the fact that the Bells are the most photographed peaks in North America. The Maroon Bells Wilderness Area is located just outside Aspen, Colorado and is only accessible by vehicle May through October. Shuttles to Maroon Bells, which leave from the Aspen Highlands parking lot run June through October and are $8 per person. The shuttles are good to have if you are trying to visit with a large party or family. The small parking lot up at the Bells usually fills up by 9AM during peak months so the shuttle is your alternative if the lot is full. A lot of photographers, overnight hikers, and campers begin their Maroon Bells experience in the early morning hours. In the Spring, the area isn't trafficked as much because the environment isn't as lush as later seasons. During the Summer and Fall, the area will be relatively busy because of the tourist attraction and changing colors on the aspen trees. The area is also accessible during the winter months, but only if you're willing to do some hiking. The ten mile round trip hike to the Bells bring during winter months leaves hikers with solitude and isolation.

Photo By: Mark Munson

Reason 1) Views & Environment
The views at Maroon Bells are unmatched and undoubtedly some of the best in Colorado. If there is any location that is a accurate representation of the Rocky Mountains, it's Maroon Bells. The diverse terrain and sub-alpine tundra offers something for everyone. From lush meadows of wildflowers, to airy forests of aspens, to flowing blue waterfalls, the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area has it all. There is a lot to take in and explore, even just around Maroon Lake. 

Reason 2) Hiking
There are five main hiking trails throughout the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, all of which providing amazing views of the surrounding landscapes. The trails vary in difficulty and might not be suitable for everyone so be sure to check the trail information before you start hiking. 

Maroon Lake Trail
This trail is the easiest of the five hikes and basically just wraps the perimeter of the Northwest side of the lake. The majority of the tourists that visit Maroon Bells will stay on this trail, making it the most trafficked. There are some great picnic spots to relax and soak in the amazing views along the side of the lake. Many photographers will be set up off this trail attempting to capture the beauty of the glacier carved valley. 
Photo By: Mark Munson

Scenic Loop Trail

Distance: 2-3 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Trail Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: Approx. +120′
Dogs: On Leash (Maroon Bells Wilderness Area is a moose habitat so abide by this rule for the safety of your pup)


Connecting from the Maroon Lake Trail is the Scenic Loop Trail and scenic it is! If you really want to get a true taste of the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area I recommend you check out this trail. This is probably the most popular trail because it's not too long and gives you a variety of views throughout the hike. The trail starts at the footbridge at the west end of Maroon Lake and makes its way along the side of Maroon Creek and up into the aspen forests. It winds through colorful wildflower ridden meadows and next to the cascades of the creek. 
Maroon Creek Trail

Distance: 3 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Trail Type: Lollipop Loop
Elevation Gain: Approx. +120′
Dogs: On Leash (Maroon Bells Wilderness Area is a moose habitat so abide by this rule for the safety of your pup)


If you are looking for something less trafficked then this might be the trail for you. This trail begins off the Maroon Lake trail and winds down into the valley. People that want to do a little more hiking than the Maroon Lake Trail usually just do the Scenic Loop Trail and this one is missed. This trail follows the Maroon Creek downhill for 3.5 miles. Since the trail stays near water the chances are seeing wildlife are high. This trail has two different options depending on how much hiking you want to do:
 
2.5 Mile Hike: After approximately 2.5 miles the trail will come to a fork where you can go left and take the trail through the meadows which will bring you to the bus. From here you can go back to the trailhead or back to Aspen Highlands if that's where you parked. 

3.5 Mile Hike: Your second option is to continue down the trail into the valley a bit further where the trail will join with the East Maroon Trail. During your hike don't forget to look back once in a while for unique views of Maroon Bells. The trail will wind down to a spot where you can pick up the bus and return to the trailhead or the Highlands. 
Photo By: Mark Munson
Crater Lake Trail

Distance: 3.6 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Trail Type: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Dogs: On Leash (Maroon Bells Wilderness Area is a moose habitat so abide by this rule for the safety of your pup)


If you are looking for a more moderate hike the Crater Lake Trail is for you. Crater Lake is the next closest lake to Maroon Lake and is worth the mile and half hike up. The trail will give you a higher perspective of Maroon Lake and Maroon Creek as it climbs into the aspen forests. It will also give you a bit of exercise if that's what you're looking for. Crater Lake is unique in itself sitting directly under the Bells offering an up close look at this unique set of peaks. 
Willow Lake Trail

Distance: approx. 13 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Difficult
Trail Type: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: +3020′ to Willow Pass
Dogs: On Leash (Maroon Bells Wilderness Area is a moose habitat so abide by this rule for the safety of your pup)


Getting to Willow Lake requires a good amount of hiking and a substantial elevation gain, but is worth every minute. ​It's probable that  you will have to camp overnight if you want to truly enjoy the Willow Lake hike and not be rushed. At the Crater Lake bulletin board the trail continues right and up through Minnehaha Gulch. Eventually the trail comes to another fork at the Maroon-Snowmass/Willow Lake Junction which will continue right. The trail will switchback all the way up to Willow Pass. Once atop Willow Pass the lake is only another 1.5 miles away. Camping overnight is not recommended at Willow Lake because of wildlife and thunderstorms and camping is also prohibited near Buckskin Pass. If you want to camp overnight use the designated spots in Minnehaha Gulch. The Willow Lake hike offers hikers an amazing variety of views showcasing the true beauty of the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area.
Photo By: Mark Munson
Reason 3) Camping
There are three campsites along Maroon Creek Road if you are thinking of staying the night in the area. The campsites are all past the welcome station giving campers first access to the Maroon Bells in the morning.

Silver Bar Campground
Silver Bar Campground is located approximately five miles southwest of Aspen, Colorado, on the banks of Maroon Creek. The campground is adjacent to the Maroon Bells Welcome Station. This small, primitive, campground features four tent-only, walk-in sites with centralized vault toilets only a few yards away from each campsite. A single accessible campsite is located near the toilets and water source. 
(Information courtesy of Recreation.gov)

Silver Bell Campground
Located just outside Aspen, Colorado, Silver Bell Campground is hemmed in by aspen groves and subalpine forests on the banks of Maroon Creek. Silver Bell Campground has 14 sites, including tent-only and walk-in sites. RVs and trailers are welcome at the standard sites. Sites are equipped with picnic tables, vault toilets, campfire rings, and drinking water. Electrical hook-ups are not available.
(Information courtesy of Recreation.gov)

Silver Queen Campground
Located just outside Aspen, Colorado, Silver Queen Campground is hemmed in by aspen groves, a short walk from Maroon Creek, with views of 14,018 foot Pyramid Peak. Silver Queen Campground has five campsites available for advanced reservation which are able to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Sites are equipped with picnic tables, vault toilets, campfire rings, and drinking water. Electrical hook-ups are not available. Horses are not allowed in the campground.
(Information courtesy of Recreation.gov)

Reason 4) Photography

This reason wont apply for everyone, but the Maroon Bells are the most photographed peaks in all of North America. Photographers from all across the globe flock to Aspen late September to photograph the changing colors on the aspen trees. The different layers of scenery and foliage make for plenty of different composition opportunities. If you are visiting during peak months and are hoping to get some good photographs, make sure you get there early to reserve your spot for sunrise or sunset. The best time to view and photograph the Bells is during sunrise. Once over the horizon the morning light paints the Bells pink making for amazing photographs. It's honestly hard not to get a good shot at Maroon Bells.
Reason 5) Backpacking

Last but not least is backpacking. You will need a permit to backpack or camp overnight anywhere in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area The Four Pass Loop is the well known backpacking trail that is best used during summer and fall and is 27 miles long in total. There are steep ascents over four different passes but hikers are awarded with amazing mountain views, crystal clear alpine lakes, and waterfalls, some over 200 feet tall. The trail is well marked and easy to follow. A four-day/three-night trip would be ideal, as it allows for a perfect balance of vigorous hiking and down-time to explore, take photos, and relax. The loop can be finished in three days if you are really pushing yourself and hiking quickly. It can also be extended to 5 or more days if you really want to take in all the scenery of the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area.
 
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