I said when I began this Colorado Bucket List series that some of these “must-do” items are probably a little overrated and/or cliché. Some of them are also excessively popular and crowded. This is absolutely one of the most popular and crowded items on the list, but it’s by no means overrated. There’s a reason the Maroon Bells are the most photographed location in Colorado, and it’s evident simply by looking at a photo of them.
The Maroon Bells are two of the most iconic of Colorado’s 14ers – Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak – that rise sharply and prominently from the heart of the Elk Mountains just west of Aspen. Their name stems from their mudstone composition that gives them a maroon color, especially when illuminated by the rising sun. This makes photographing them at sunrise a popular activity.
Their alternate name – the Deadly Bells – stems from the number of climbing accidents and fatalities that have occurred on these peaks over the years. As is probably evident from just looking at them, summiting these two 14ers is not a casual hike; as such, these are two 14ers that Pat and I will probably never tackle. I suppose we might change our minds someday, but for now I’m completely happy with my sunrise Maroon Bells experience.
From here, I think I’ll just let my photos do the talking.
Cliché? Maybe. Worth the 5:00am wakeup call? Definitely!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: Maroon Lake is at the end of Maroon Creek Road outside of Aspen, CO. Vehicle access is highly restricted; most access is by bus (more info here) and the road is closed in the winter
- Fees and passes: parking in Aspen costs $10-25/day + $8/person to ride the shuttle, or it’s $10/car if not riding the shuttle; Interagency Annual Passes accepted
- Hiking: none needed for this view!
- Where to stay: camping is very limited in the area and fills up extremely quickly… definitely have a back up plan if you don’t have a reservation (for example: various lodging options in Aspen)
- Other: this area of Colorado is popular for a reason, but it’s one of those places that’s getting “loved to death.” Please stay on the trails, obey closure signs, and don’t step over the ropes… this will allow the Maroon Lake ecosystem some much-needed time to recover from years of use and abuse