I had made plans to visit the hot springs and hike to Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs, CO over the 4th of July weekend. After seeing the huge crowds at the hot springs and finding the highway exit for Hanging Lake actually closed due to overcrowding, I decided to scrap my original plan and find something else to do.
Over coffee we decided on a new plan. We would drive an hour or so south to the Aspen area and get a closer look at the iconic Maroon Bells, a pair of picturesque fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 ft.) and a lake that epitomize a Rocky Mountain scene.
When we got close we found the road to Maroon Bells closed. This is done 9-5 during the summer to alleviate traffic on the Maroon Creek Road and lessen its impact on wildlife. Fortunately, there’s a bus from Aspen Highlands and the town of Aspen to the Maroon Bells. The ride from Aspen Highlands is $6 for adults. It takes about fifteen minutes and the driver gives some information on the way up. As a bonus, we even saw a moose from the bus window.
The bus drops passengers off close to Maroon Lake, in a high mountain basin (9,600 feet above sea level) surrounded by peaks higher than 13,000 feet. The view at this spot has to be one of the best mountain scenes anywhere. After just taking it in for a few minutes, we walked down to Maroon Lake.
There are several hiking trails in the area. The Maroon Lake trail is an easy one mile path that runs along the north side of Maroon Lake with great views of the Maroon Bells. The Falls Loop Trail starts near the bridge at the upper end of the lake and runs along a stream, past cascades and waterfalls. Sadly, I didn’t know about this trail until after we left. It’s also an easy walk of about 1.5 miles. Maroon Creek Trail is an easy rated 3.2 mile trail which goes through meadows and forests, ending at the East Maroon Creek Portal parking area. We hiked the 3.6 mile round-trip trail to Crater Lake. This trail is the hardest of the four, but still only rated as “moderate”. The rocky trail gains about 500 feet of elevation on its way to Crater Lake (10,076).
After our hike, we caught the bus back to Aspen Highlands and enjoyed some much needed ice water and of course an after-hike beer.
*I just read that there has been increased moose sightings around the Maroon Lake area and that some of the moose have been acting aggressively. As a precaution some trails may be closed to dogs or closed entirely. For information on trail closures, camping, hiking, or general info, go to the Forest Service’s Maroon Bells Scenic Area web page.