Hiking the Maroon Bells

I was recently up in the Aspen area for a fishing trip up the Fryingpan. I decided to get up extra early one morning and hike to the Maroon Bells. I beat the sunrise hoping to see the light hit the mountain tops and while I didn’t quite get what I was hoping for, what I did see was worth the trip. On the drive in, seeing the sunrise hit the mountains is really awesome. The mountains turn a warm shade of orange against the deep blue/purple of the early morning sky. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in soon after so by the time I was hiking everything was muted by cloud cover.

Driving up to the Maroon Bells has a lot of restrictions based on dates, times, and the number of people in your vehicle. Generally you have to take a bus up but getting there before 8am meant for $10 I could drive right up to the trail head. The parking lot was surprisingly full at 6am when I got up there. There are a few trails heading off into different directions but if you want to hike up to crater lake, the primary trail is well marked and fairly obvious.

There were quite a few people there talking, taking photos, and hiking so it wasn’t quite the peaceful early morning hike I had expected. It was very pretty nonetheless. There’s a very easy trail that brings you to the lowest lake. This is where most people hang out. Hiking around that lake and further on brings you to crater lake a few miles later. There aren’t many views on the trail itself, though walking through the mature aspens is quite nice and I imagine it would be beautiful when the leaves turn.

Toward the top the trail gets a bit more rocky and uneven, but in general the whole hike is fairly easy. When I got to crater lake, I was one of the first hikers there, though there are campsites around the lake so there were a few people already there having their camp breakfasts and packing up. In general the reward for such a short hike is pretty great and the toughest part is getting up before dawn. I imagine going in later in the day would be quite crowded and maybe still worth it if you don’t mind all the people.

Crater Lake
The view from Crater Lake with campers conveniently cropped out


Maroon Bells Sunrise
Unfortunately this was the best shot I got before the clouds came in.


Lake at the start of the trail to Maroon Bells
This is the lake at the start of the trail to Maroon Bells. Lots of people with expensive looking tripod camera setups trying to get photos.


Aspen Grove
Much of the early trail goes through thick Aspens