If you’re up for 14,000-foot peaks, fields of wildflowers, and a whole host of creatures in their natural habitat, look no further than Maroon Bells. Located just minutes from Aspen, Maroon Bells is actually composed of two peaks – Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak – in the Elk Mountain range of the Colorado Rockies.
The mountains, which are famous for their bell shapes and their unique red color, have been stunning visitors for decades. But Maroon Bells has more to offer than just massively high peaks. Maroon Valley, nestled between the two mountains, is home to everything from foxes and deer to bighorn sheep. And the ornithologists among you are in for quite the treat: you’ll find hummingbirds, jays, nuthatches, and even the great horned howl. Then there are the expanses of green throughout the valley, dotted with the fiery reds, electric blues, and pure whites of some of the most gorgeous wildflowers in the country. No wonder Maroon Bells has earned the reputation of one of the most photographed places in America!
For those who appreciate nature best by exploring it on foot, there are plenty of hikes near Maroon Lake. The trails range in difficulty from the easy Maroon Lake and Scenic Loop to the more challenging Crater Lake. Trekkers will be graced by walks filled with aspen trees, gently bubbling streams, and rushing waterfalls. There are also opportunities for camping, road cycling, and horse riding. Maroon Lake also offers plenty of opportunities for picnicking, fishing, or simply relaxing amongst the majestic scenery.
For the more adventurous traveler, climbing is permitted but is very much at your own risk: the mountains are mudstone, which means the rock is unstable and breaks away easily. Even seasoned climbers have had their plans foiled by the unstable terrain, so make sure you’re really ready if you’re thinking about a climbing trip here.
Although Maroon Bells are just 12 miles from Aspen, access by car is limited only to those who plan on camping overnight in the area. The simplest way to reach Maroon Bells is via the Maroon Bells Guided Bus Tour. Buses depart from outside Four Mountain Sports every 20 minutes between 9:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., and on the hour between 2:30 and 4:30.
Just because cars are prohibited doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to take the bus to Maroon Bells. All forms of non-motorized transportation – biking, walking, skating, and anything else you can dream up – are permitted. Whether you decide to bus it or hike in with your own two feet, you’re sure to have a blast at Maroon Bells. You’ll be wowed by the unmatched beauty of the crimson mountains, the abundance of wildlife, and the stunning colors throughout the valley.
With so much to see and do at Maroon Bells, your experience is bound to be unforgettable. Just remember to do it right. Summer travelers should remember to pack sunscreen and plenty of water: the altitude, sun, and warm temperatures can be a shock to those who haven’t properly acclimated. And because Maroon Bells is nature in its purest form, there are no vending machines, restaurants, or water fountains, so be sure to pack enough food and drinks for the day.