Colorado, Travels

Colorado Bucket List: Sunrise at the Maroon Bells

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.

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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.

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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

30 thoughts on “Colorado Bucket List: Sunrise at the Maroon Bells”

    1. Oh boy are there ever! My most recent post (West Maroon Creek Trail to Crater Lake hike) is one of them. There’s also a 28 mile loop that encircles the Maroon Bells that we hope to backpack later this summer.

      There are tons of other hiking trails in the area as well, though I’m not sure which ones have views of the mountains.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, so gorgeous! I’ve been to Colorado, but I didn’t head to that part of the state for the Maroon Bells. Looks like I’ll have to make a trip over again to see them!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So many! I actually recently wrote two posts about our Mesa Verde trip… maybe back in April? If you search my homepage they should show up. I got a little carried away so you’ll have all my recommendations and then some 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. When our summer trip to Europe got cancelled due to coronavirus, my first thought was to do our long-dreamed-of Maroon Bells hike from Aspen to Crested Butte and back again. Unfortunately, the dream consists of two nights in a fancy hotel in Crested Butte and we just aren’t ready to do that yet. As such, our summer trip will be with our COVID-friendly travel trailer. Someday, though. (And I promise to stay on the trails. 🙂 I always appreciate your commitment to the environment, as I share it, too.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, I’m not at the “staying in a hotel” point yet either. That hike looks really cool though! So much to explore, so little time. Hope you have fun with your alternate plans this summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, such beautiful photos! Some of the places are touristy for a good reason and once you visit very early in the morning you get the chance to escape the tourist crowds. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

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