Aspen, located about 160 miles southwest of Denver, is a tourist highlight, bringing in over 7 million visitors last year. Most of these tourists flock to this town to ski its magnificent slopes. However, when I went to visit, it was the beginning of July, which is generally not the time of year majority of the travelers come here. But that doesn't mean that you can't get the full experience of Aspen. Today, I will be talking about Maroon Bells, arguably on of the main features of Aspen. This is a guide on travels to Maroon Bells in the summer.
What is Maroon Bells?
The Maroon Bells consist of two peaks in the shape of a bell, and two of the tallest mountains in the town of Aspen. The Maroon Park has many trails that range from 1 mile to even one that is 18 miles and traverses around and through the whole mountain. The trails vary in skill level, however all the trails require adequate footwear and water to last a full day.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are some very important things to keep in mind when planning your trip to the Maroon Bells. There is a new rule put in place requiring people to take the Roaring Forks Transportation Authority (RFTA) public transport bus to the entrance of Maroon Bells. These buses run every 15 minutes and require a reservation. Also, be sure to take the bus back before 5:00pm. If you do not take the bus back by 5, there will be no more buses going up to the entrance, there is no cellular service, and I would assume you wouldn't want to walk 9 miles back to the parking lot. The exception to this rule is before 9am and after 5pm, when you can drive a personal vehicle into the park for a fee of $10.
Also be sure to pack enough food and water to supply for the full day. Once you take the bus back to the parking lot, there is no going back up. And there is no water fountains or places to get food at the park. So it is a very good idea to keep some snacks and water in your backpack, or even pack your lunch in advance. And don't even try to drink the water from the lake; the lakes are bacteria-infested and are sure to make you sick.
At Maroon Bells, impromptu rain showers are not uncommon. So make sure to be prepared for a little drizzle, and maybe even pack some raingear to be safe.
Directions to Maroon Bells
Maroon Bells is 16 miles southwest of Aspen city center. You can view a map below. Aspen is not connected by any interstate highways, but Interstate 15 and Interstate 70 are within 100 miles of Aspen, so they would be convenient to use if you were arriving from an outside state.
What do I do at Maroon Bells?
There are many trails at the Maroon Bells. Many sources will tell you the distance and the difficulty that is posted, but I will share with you what an average traveler would think of the trail. Here are the trails and what you will see along the trails.
Maroon Lake Trail
- Distance: Almost ½ (each way)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: Slight
- Things to note: The Maroon Lake Trail is the perfect trail for if you want to spend an hour viewing the Maroon Bells without having to walk too much. This is a great trail to relax and take in the view of the Bells and the surrounding hills. Out and back is about 1 mile.
Crater Lake Trail at Maroon Bells
- Distance: 1.8 miles (one way)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: Moderate (~500ft up)
- Things to note: The Crater Lake trail is an awesome hike which will require some moderate skill due to the elevation gain and rocky terrain, but once you get to the end, you will realize that it was worth it. At Crater Lake, you can sit and relax while enjoying the view of the massive Bells in front of you. This trail will require around 3 hours. Out and back is about 3.6 miles.
Maroon Creek Trail
- Distance: Varied
- Difficulty: Moderate in patches
- Elevation Gain: Moderate (~800ft down)
- Things to note: The Maroon Creek Trail is extremely difficult to give an accurate measurement of distance. Before we came, we researched and expected a distance of around 3.5 miles through the whole thing. However, we recorded a distance of 4.7 miles one way. This is something important to note before taking this trail. If you aren't up for hiking that distance, there is a turnoff at 2.5 miles, where there is a bridge leading you to the road where you will be picked up by a bus going down to the visitor center. If you do plan to go the whole distance, you will be led to a parking lot where a bus heading to the visitor center will pick you up. This is the perfect trail if you are looking for a different type of trail, going through the hillside and forests of the park, and it is actually not too difficult because of the average downhill in elevation. Expect to spend 2-3 hours on this trail. This trail is one way.
Scenic Loop Trail at Maroon Bells
- Distance: 1.5 miles (one way)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: Slight (~100 feet up)
- Things to note: The Scenic Loop Trail is an amazing trail that leads you along the foot of the hills, showing hikers an vast variety of nature, from the wildflowers to the mountains in the backdrop. This trail is arguably one of the most popular trails because of the easy difficulty and wonderful views. Expect to spend 2-3 hours on this trail. Out and back is about 3 miles.
Willow Lake Trail at Maroon Bells
- Distance: 6.5 miles (one way)
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Elevation Gain: High (~3000 feet up)
- Things to note: This trail is quite strenuous and quite difficult. This is suggested for only the most experienced hikers. This trail goes through the passes of the Maroon Bells and the neighboring peaks. Expect to spend a full day and possibly an overnight camp. This trail is 13 miles out and back.
Snowmass to East Snowmass Creek Loop
- Distance: 21 miles (loop)
- Difficulty: Extreme
- Elevation Gain: High (~3500 feet up)
- Things to note: I would highly suggest that you do not try this trail if you are not highly experienced. This trail will take around 2-3 days and involves overnight camping. This trail is quite the challenge but gives a great view of the mountains in the Aspen area.
In conclusion, the Maroon Bells are an awesome place to visit when traveling to Aspen. They are one of the most popular sites for tourists in Aspen and there is a clear reason to why it is so popular. The Bells are one of the highest peaks in Aspen and create a spectacular view for hikers. I hope you all have an amazing time in Aspen and the Maroon Bells!