Bells and whistles

Collin Szewczyk
Post Independent Staff
Collin Szewczyk Post Independent
Collin Szewczyk Post Independent |

MAROON BELLS — It’s that time of the year when the urge to get out hiking is strong but the conditions may be poor. Much of the snow is gone, but the mud remains, making many of our local hikes a messy slog.

This is the perfect time to focus on some of the more popular and well-maintained routes in the valley.

The Crater Lake Trail in the Maroon Bells is a fantastic option for some quick exercise while taking in the breathtaking beauty of the peaks and lakes in the vicinity.

The hike begins at Maroon Lake and continues for 1.8 miles up to Crater Lake. The trail is well-marked and originates at the Deadly Bells Kiosk (9,580 ft.). The climb is steep and direct at first and then turns rocky as it follows several short switchbacks. As you walk the first stretch of the trail, take a quick break to look back on Maroon Lake below. The water has a glacial-like turquoise hue that is a perfect contrast to the crimson peaks towering above. Further along, the trail opens up and leads through a rocky, but flat, portion before descending toward Crater Lake (10,076 ft.) itself.

There are a plethora of critters that inhabit the area including porcupine, deer, black bear, yellow-bellied marmots, bighorn sheep and moose. There is also a wealth of multi-colored birds and wildflowers that add to an already chromatic experience.

The view of North Maroon Peak (14,014 ft.) and South Maroon Peak (14,156 ft.) from Crater Lake’s shore is one of the most iconic scenes in Colorado.

Expect the temperature to be much cooler at the lake. It will likely be much windier, too.

Getting there

Take Maroon Creek Road from the roundabout off of Highway 82 near Aspen.

Vehicle access will be limited (before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.) from June 15 through Labor Day. The cost for a vehicle to enter is $10. Exceptions to limited access include vehicles with people with disabilities or with valid handicap plates or a placard; vehicles with 11 or more people; visitors with infants requiring a child restraining seat; overnight backpackers; campers from the Silver Bar, Silver Bell and Silver Queen campgrounds; and horse trailers.

Starting this weekend, buses will depart from Aspen Highlands toward the Maroon Bells every 20 minutes, from 9:05 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and every hour and half hour from 2:30-4:30 p.m. The cost for the bus ride is $6 for adults, $4 for children 6-16 years of age and seniors. Children under 6 ride free.

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