Posted: Jul 02, 2010 by colorado wilderness
Appearing on travel brochures and postcards, the famous twin peaks of Maroon Bells are considered to be the most photographed landscape in Colorado.
The Maroon Bells Snowmass wilderness captures what I believe to be the most scenic aspects of Colorado. Lush aspen forests, lofty peaks lined with perpetual snow, clear flowing streams, blooming alpine meadows, and high alpine lakes ringed by granite peaks. Perhaps this is why the wilderness area is one of the most visited spots in Colorado.
Visitors commonly access the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness from the Aspen-Snowmass area. From Aspen, take Hwy 82 west out of town. At the round about, choose the Maroon Creek Rd. exit and drive to the Aspen Highlands Resort on the left. Aspen Highlands is a ski resort that is used as the jumping off point for visitors visiting the Maroon Bells area. Here you can purchase shuttle bus tickets to the Maroon Bells. Due to the high volume of visitors, parking is not available near the Bells and shuttles are provided for access. Tickets are $3 – $6 dollars roundtrip. The shuttle takes you to the Maroon Lake trailhead. Maroon Lake is a very short walk from the bus stop. This trailhead provides access to Crater Lake, West Maroon Creek, and the Snowmass Lake trails further up the valley. Tent camping sites are available at Crater Lake, but arrive early as the sites fill up fast. Wood fires are prohibited around Crater Lake. Bring a stove.
Hikers on Buckskin Pass in the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness
How to Beat the Crowds
The Maroon Bell area is extremely popular with many tourists and local day hikers. To beat the crowds, arrive early in the morning on a weekday. Avoid holidays and weekends. The area is also popular during the fall.
Best Time to Visit
Late summer and fall are the most scenic times to visit. From late July into August the wildflowers are at their peak. Late September is when the fall colors are at their best. Make sure to visit on a weekday to avoid burgeoning crowds at Maroon Lake.
To best appreciate the wilderness, a number of days of hiking is required. Backpackers enjoy views of Pyramid Peak, Capitol Peak, Snowmass Lake, and the vivid green of the Fravert Basin splashed with alpine wildflowers. For more backpacking information see our Colorado Backpacking Guide.
- West Maroon Pass to Schofield Park – Start at the Maroon Lake trailhead. At Crater Lake, continue on W. Maroon Pass trail to the top of the pass. Descend the pass’ western side and enter Schofield Park. Views of Maroon Bells and 13k ft. high peaks abound. Trail Rating: More Difficult.
- Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop- A 4-5 day loop hike of 28 miles roundtrip. Crosses W. Maroon Pass, Frigid Air Pass, Trailrider Pass, and Buckskin Pass. Spectacular views of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, and Snowmass Peak. Strenuous but highly scenic.
View Maroon Bells 4 Pass Loop in a larger map
- Electric Pass – This is a popular and heavily used trail and is not recommended by the Forest Service to be hiked on weekends. Electric Pass is the highest pass in Colorado accessible by a trail. The pass offers breathtaking views of the Elk Mountains. Access it via the Cathedral Lake Trail from Castle Creek Road. Visit the Electric Pass Cathedral Lake link for more details. Trail rating: More Difficult.
Nearby Wilderness Areas