Crater Lake Trail - Maroon Bells (6-29-08)
Located near Aspen, Colorado the Maroon Bells are among the most recognizable peaks in the Rocky Mountains. Also known to climbers as the "Deadly Bells" the twin pyramidal summits, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, rise to elevations of 14,163 and 14,019-feet respectively. These are by no means mountains to be climbed by the average hiker. Summiting either peak requires a level of skill that I personally don't come close to possessing. Fortunately for people like me, however, there's a pleasantly short and relatively easy trail which leads right up to the foot of them.
The Crater Lake Trail begins at the end of Maroon Creek Road to the southwest of Aspen. A note...In the summer (mid-June through September), the popularity of this hike means that a shuttle is required to reach the trailhead from 8:30am-5pm. There's a fee required for the shuttle but, trust me, you won't mind it a bit as it allows for a fantastic opportunity to sit back and enjoy the scenery on the ride up to your hike without having to fight through the traffic jams which would inevitably plague the road if the shuttles didn't exist. The hike begins on the southern shore of Maroon Lake, itself one of the more photographed landscape features in Colorado. The view of the snow-capped Maroon Bells rising to the south above the lakes placid waters is a view never to be forgotten. The trail is wildly popular and is thus wide and easy to follow. Bypassing Maroon Lake the route enters the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness as it climbs to the boulder-choked pass separating Maroon Lake from Crater Lake. Just shy of the two-mile mark the trail emerges onto the shore of Crater Lake itself and I guarantee whatever breath you have left after the recent climb will be swiftly taken away by the view which greets your eyes upon arrival. Words fail to express just how spectacularly majestic, rugged, and wild the setting of Crater Lake is. Pyramid Peak, rising to 14,026', forms a literal towering wall on the lakes eastern shore. To the southwest, rising from the opposite shore of the lake, are the Maroon Bells themselves. I'll let the pictures which follow do the talking for me. This is, full stop, one of the top five most beautiful hiking destinations I've ever visited. I took a good long time relaxing on the shores of Crater Lake and simply soaking all the majesty and peace mother nature was willing to give me. Words simply fail.
So, come on along with me as I take a short walk into paradise...no hyperbole here...nature nears perfection at Crater Lake. Join me, I think you'll agree...ENJOY!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 39.098580, -106.940618
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: MODERATE
Mileage Hiked: 4.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:30
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: 25-50 people
Min. Elevation: 9,580' Max Elevation: 10,200'
Total Vertical Gain: 705' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 176'
Trails Used (blaze color): Crater Lake Trail (unblazed)