Saturday, June 25, 2016

Maroon Bells

Maroon Lake Looking East
If camera clicks were votes, then the Maroon Bells would likely win in a landslide. They say it's the most photographed place in Colorado, which is really saying something when you consider all of the spectacular beauty the state has to offer. It's been one of my  favorite places in the world since I visited in high school in the 1980s. It's a perfect combination of everything. The drive in heightens explanations and the rising mountains on both sides walls you in and gives an increasing sense of intimacy. The sound of the rushing creek, the calmness and reflections of the expansive lake. The softness and vibrancy of the aspen groves. And then the rugged mountains themselves. Jutting out of the valley they just look too perfect to be real. Powerful, majestic and monumental. The are framed by mountains and slopes on either side, which adds to the drama of these mammoth pyramid-shaped, trio of peaks. It's just all so perfect.

Sievers Mountain to the North
The problem is that lots of other people feel this way, too. So crowds can be an issue. To cut down on traffic in the summer months (From mid-June to early October -- this year from June 11 to Oct 4), visitors must ride the shuttle buses from 8-5 each day. But before and after those times you can drive directly to the visitors lot near the lake ($10 per vehicle fee) and those lucky enough to be camping at the Silver Bar, Silver Bell and Silver Queen Campgrounds are exempt from the busing requirement. To reserve a campsite, click here. The road closes for winter from mid-November to mid-May. More busing information here.

Pyramid Peak to the South
We arrived in the late afternoon, which wasn't the best time for photos. The Bells face east, so I recommend arriving early in the morning (7am) to avoid the bus requirement and the rush of visitors AND to get the best photos.

Maroon Creek
There are many easy trails in the vicinity of the lake. If you are in shape and want a longer hike, then take the Crater lake Trail (3.6 miles roundtrip) to visit another nearby lake. In the past, I have hiked to Willow Pass and Buckskin Pass. These are much more strenuous, all-day hikes for which you will want to be fully prepared and acclimated to the high altitudes.

Directions: The Maroon Bells are located outside of Aspen, CO. From the roundabout on Hwy 82 north of town, take the Maroon Creek spur and drive 1.5 miles to the Aspen Highlands Village for the Bus Tour. Click here for the bus schedule and fees. -- OR if off-season or off-hours, drive 19 miles to the visitors' parking area at Maroon Lake.

Crater Lake Trail through Aspens

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