Explore the Maroon Bells & Snowmass Wilderness

    5.0

    Added by Eric Schuette

    The Maroon Bells are probably the most famous mountains in all of Colorado. The iconic picture of the bells from Maroon lake is a must for any landscape photographer. The Bells offer access to 3 classic 14ers of the Elk range: South and North Maroon as well as Pyramid Peak as well as backpacking the famous 4 Pass Loop.

    The beautiful and iconic Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness is home to some of the most amazing scenery and adventures to be had in all of Colorado. It is world famous for the Maroon Bells, two challenging 14ers just outside of Aspen Colorado. The third 14er, Pyramid Peak is also considered a classic hike and all serve as sentinels to an wonderfully scenic wilderness area. If you're making a quick stop in the area, be sure to hit Maroon Lake where you'll get the iconic vistas of the Bells. While the lake will get you the best bang for buck, there is so much more to see and you'd be missing a great deal of wonderful scenery and adventures if you stopped here.

    Here are just some of the many adventures to be had by venturing forth past the parking lot and into the wilderness. The 14ers in the area are famous but also can be very dangerous (they have all claimed lives) and the specific routes and information for each are beyond the scope of this report - be sure to do your own throrough research before taking any of these on.

    Maroon Lake Located only a few hundred yards from the parking area, this is the location of millions of photographs showing the Maroon Bells and their reflections in all of their beauty. A trail does circle the lake, which can be scenic from all angles but it the shoreline closest to the parking lot that will be packed with photographers in the fall.

    Crater Lake A 3.6 miles roundtrip with ~500 feet of elevation gain. The hike to crater lake is a pleasant one and although perhaps not as grand as its lower neighbor Maroon lake, is a beautiful destination in its own right. This is a popular spot to enjoy the views en route to more ambitious objectives further up the trail. It is also a popular camping area in the summer (although late in 2014 due to black bear activity camping has been closed in the area, check for current regulations).

    Pyramid Peak This is a fairly popular but potentially dangerous 14er that should be attempted with caution. It is 8.25 miles round-trip with 4,500 feet of elevation gain. Loose rock, route-finding, a couple class 4 moves, and steep loose slopes are part of the hike. However, it can be very enjoyable if one possesses the skills and confidence to navigate on its difficult terrain.

    North Maroon This is considered the more difficult of the maroon bells to climb with a round-trip distance of 9.25 miles, 4,500 feet of elevation gain, and a class 4 rating. To complete this climb requires lots of patience and route-finding skills. As one climbs the northeast ridge there are areas of loose rock with several class 4 moves.

    South Maroon South Maroon or Maroon Peak is one of the most dramatic and aesthetically pleasing 14ers in Colorado. It is also can be very dangerous and careful route-finding, patience, and good weather are essential to make the summit. It is 12 miles round-trip with 4,800 feet of elevation gain and is considered class 3+ hiking.

    Bells Traverse Considered one the classic 14er traverses in Colorado, this traverse has a deserved reputation as dangerous and amazing. To complete the traverse it is 9.5 miles round-trip with 4,850 feet of gain. The traverse is considered low class 5 climbing and proper climbing gear/expertise should be used.

    Willow Lake A beautiful lake nestled amongst the elk mountains just east of Buckskin Pass (near Willow Pass). The scenery along the entire trail is beautiful and the lake is considered a gem of the elk range. The hike is 12.4 miles round-trip with 2,250 feet of net elevation gain (there is more cumulative gain) and can be done as a day hike or overnight trip.

    4 Pass Loop This loop hike is considered one the great backpacking trips in all of Colorado (if not the greatest). It is often spread out over 2-4 days and involves cresting 4 passes, each competing for the most amazing view award. In total it is 26.8 miles from start to finish (both ends are at Maroon Lake) with 8,115 feet of elevation change. The passes include Buckskin, Trail Rider, Frigid Air, and West Maroon. Both Buckskin and West Maroon passes are also commonly done as long day hikes. Along the way there are some designated campsites and if one follows wilderness guidelines, there are many other areas where one can set up camp along the way. Most of the route is above treeline so be aware of weather (especially summer thunderstorms).

    Read More
    Rock Climbing
    Cycling
    Snowboarding
    Chillin
    Camping
    Fishing
    Photography
    Running
    Skiing
    Snowshoeing
    Backpacking
    Hiking
    Bathrooms
    Dog Friendly
    Easy Parking
    Family Friendly
    Forest
    Lake
    Picnic Area
    Scenic
    Wildflowers
    Wildlife

    Go Pro.

    We're committed to building a better, more inclusive home for the modern outdoors. Go PRO to support our mission and get benefits like gear deals, no ads, and more!

    Learn More

    Reviews

    Rate this Adventure

    Fall time is best time

    We took the shuttle to Maroon Bells and got some awesome photos while trees were in full color. If you’re into photography, check this place out for sure.

    Explorer

    🥇Top Contributor

    over 2 years ago

    A Must for Any Landscape Photographer

    It was cool to see what are probably the most famous mountains in all of Colorado. The iconic picture of the bells from Maroon lake is a must for any landscape photographer.

    Amazing

    This is another spot that is uber popular and can get crazy crowded. Perfect time to go: early morning, weekday, fall. I've had the hike and lake all to myself a few times, but it involved arriving before sunrise and on weekdays. It's truly amazing at anytime of year. Fall is the best, just breathtaking. Make sure you pass Maroon Lake to Crater Lake on your hike. So much to see and photograph and just take in. It's the most photographed site in Colorado for a reason. If you can get it to yourself, it's heaven. Not a hard hike at all (unless you keep going to summit, but that's an entirely different article). Big time beauty all around. It's the tops.

    Explorer

    🥇Top Contributor

    over 3 years ago

    Lived up to the hype

    This little adventure was everything I expected, seemed unreal walking up to the shore of the lake. Came during "off season" in early May. Definitely recommended, avoid the crowds, and still get some color from the Aspens just blooming.

    🥈 Contributor

    almost 4 years ago

    Must see views at Maroon Bells

    Growing up in Utah, I've always been surrounded by mountains, but being at the base of some 14ers was a completely different experience. The drive up to the trailhead for these mountains is beautiful, and walking up to Maroon and Crater lake will leave a lasting impression.

    Leave No Trace

    Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

    Stay Nearby

    Maroon Creek Road

    East Maroon Portal Picnic Site

    Aspen, Colorado

    Single Family Home, Plenty Of Room

    From $452/night

    Aspen, Colorado

    100' To Slopes! Roomy Snowmass Home With Hot Tub

    From $370/night

    Snowmass Village, Colorado

    Aspenwood Gem With Pool, Hot Tubs & Sauna

    From $259/night

    Nearby Adventures

    Hike to Crater Lake

    4.5
    3.6 mi / 500 ft gain

    Car Camp at Maroon Lake

    5.0
    0.3 mi / 0 ft gain

    Backpack the Four Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells

    4.8
    27.1 mi / 8000 ft gain

    Backpack to Snowmass Lake

    4.3
    16.6 mi / 2500 ft gain
    More Nearby Adventures

    Inspire Your Fall Aspen Trip!

    Autumn days in Aspen are filled with sunshine and nights with crisp cool air. Watch the mountains and valleys turn gold with the changing Aspen trees. Take in the scenery while enjoying scenic drives, hiking through forests, road biking, and exploring our IMBA Gold Level Ride Center recognized mountain bike trails. 




    Learn More