Best Hikes in the Maroon Bells
I’ve written about the Maroon Bells before, in an article on great Colorado road trips: they were my final stop on a tour of fall’s changing colors. In a state filled with staggering mountain views ~ the Bells still stand out. When standing in front of Maroon Lake gazing up at these majestic peaks, it’s easy to realize in that moment that you’re witnessing one of nature’s finest displays. To get you right up close to all that lovely wildness, here are some of the “Best Hikes in the Maroon Bells.”
Overview of Top 5 Hikes by Maroon Bells
1) The Maroon Lake Trail, 1 Mile, Flat = If you’re visiting the Maroon Bells with kids ~ this is a great choice. The easy walk next to Maroon Lake passes thru lush aspen groves & pretty meadows. If you want to walk longer, continue onto the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop, which goes just a little further. Hiking Time: 20-30 minutes.
2) Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail, 1.9 Mile Loop, Mainly Flat = This hike also follows right along Maroon Lake, starting right by the main parking area. You gain less than 200 feet of elevation, so it’s still kid-friendly. Dogs aren’t allowed here, as it’s a very popular route. Hiking Time: 45 minutes.
3) Crater Lake Trail, 3.5 Mile Out-&-Back, Moderately Challenging = This hike requires a 700-foot elevation gain on rocky terrain (wear shoes with good tread) ~ so it’s definitely better for more experienced hikers. But pretty wildflowers, peaceful aspen groves, & a sparkling lake are your rewards. Dogs allowed on-leash. Hiking Time: 2 hours.
4) Maroon Creek Trail, 6.9 Mile Out-&-Back, More Challenging = You follow the creek nearly the whole way on this hike, making it great for dogs (on-leash). You’ll see mountain bikers & horses on this trail, which gains over 1,100 feet ~ making it longer & slightly more challenging than Crater Lake Trail. Hiking Time: 3 hours.
5) The Willow Lake Trail, 11.6 Mile Out-&-Back, Very Challenging = You’re gaining almost 4,000 feet of elevation here, which is a monster: so you may want to break this hike up into two days & bring camping gear. You’ve got river crossings, a few waterfalls, valleys filled with wildflowers, & amazing summit views. Not for the faint of heart! Hiking Time: 8 hours.
**6) Aspen-to-Crested Butte via West Maroon Pass, 20.6 miles Round-Trip, VERY Challenging = If you drove from Aspen to Crested Butte, it would take over two hours & 100+ miles. If you were to hike between the two: it’s only 10-miles!! Pretty wild. Most people do this hike as a one-way & arrange for transport back to Aspen ~ or bring camping gear & do it as a round-trip hike. The elevation gain is about 2,500 feet from Aspen to Crested Butte, & less going back down to Aspen. Hiking Time: 12+ hours.
Photos of Maroon Bells Hikes
Where to Stay in Aspen
After hiking, one way to take the edge off is by checking into one of Aspen’s legendary luxury hotels, such as The Little Nell or Hotel Jerome ~ where you’ll be pampered a’plenty. For those on a budget, try the more-than-adequate Mountain Chalet Aspen (located right across from the St. Regis), or St. Moritz Lodge & Condos, which is the cheapest accommodation in Aspen.