Maroon Bells 101: All You Need To Know

Maroon Bells turns pink at sunrise which is reflected in Maroon Lake

By Christine Benedetti

Visiting the Maroon Bells is at the top of most summertime visitors’ bucket lists and people are certainly checking it off. Over 300,000 people passed through the gateway to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area in recent summers to access one of the most stunning outdoor settings in North America. And the hype is real. The wilderness area provides access to some epic outdoor adventures in the heart of the Elk Mountains. From taking striking photos to setting out on some of the most incredible backcountry hiking and backpacking trails, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is worth visiting while at Aspen Snowmass this summer. But, there are several factors to consider when planning your trip.

Getting There

Updated Summer 2022

Reservations are required to visit Maroon Bells by car or shuttle. Vehicle access begins May 15 through October 31, 2022 and the shuttle system from Aspen Highlands begins May 27 and will run through October 16, 2022. It’s best to take the bus, and the majority of the time, it’s your only option. Maroon Bells can only be accessed by public bus ($16/adult; $10/senior over 65 + children under 12).

For an even more memorable route to experience the Maroon Bells, rent an e-bike from the Four Mountain Sports at the base of Aspen Highlands (or from Aspen for a longer ride), and cruise up Maroon Creek Road.

The wilderness area is approximately 10 miles from downtown Aspen, 8 miles from the Aspen Highlands Visitor Center, and 5 miles from the Forest Service gate on Maroon Creek Road.

Fall color and the first snow on Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado

Parking & Fees

Updated Summer 2021

The Maroon Bells bus departs from the Aspen Highlands Visitor Center. Parking is available, but limited, from the center. On weekdays, it’s $10 for 0-3 hours, $15 for 3-8 hours and $25 for 8+ hours. A free bus also runs from Aspen to Aspen Highlands, labeled the Castle/Maroon bus. It leaves every 20 minutes on the hour.

Private vehicles can drive up to the Bells before 8am and after 5pm. As mentioned above, parking reservations ($10) are required to use the road. These can be made directly via the Aspen Resort Chamber Association's website.

Note: Maroon Creek Road is also a popular cycling route, and bicycles can access the Maroon Bells at any time for no fee. The 9-mile route climbs nearly 1,600 feet.

The rugged south face of Sievers Mountain in fall, as seen from Maroon Lake

The rugged south face of Sievers Mountain in fall, as seen from Maroon Lake

Outdoor Opportunities

Maroon Lake sits in the natural amphitheater below the towering 14,000-foot Maroon Bells. There is a 1.7-mile nature loop that goes around the lake. Another popular hike is the 1.8-mile hike (3.6 miles roundtrip) to Crater Lake. Both of the these trails are heavily trafficked.

The scenic area is also the starting point for the popular 11-mile hike to Crested Butte; the Four-Pass Loop (a 26-mile trail that crosses four passes over 12,000 feet); numerous opportunities for day hikes; and the trailhead to three fourteeners, all of which require mountaineering knowledge, equipment and experience to summit. Unfortunately,severe accidents are common place on the high-altitude routes of these peaks.

Wilderness Tips

Reminder: This is a wilderness area. That means:

• Stay on designated trails.
• Mountain bikes and all mechanized vehicles are prohibited on the trails and within the boundaries of the wilderness area.
• Do not approach or engage with wildlife.
• Dress appropriately and come prepared; weather changes quickly and often in the Rocky Mountains.
• There is no cell phone service.
• Dogs must be leashed and pick up their waste.
• Littering is prohibited and all trash must be packed out.

A woman trail running near Maroon Bells

Get the Lay of the Land

Never been to Aspen Snowmass or the Roaring Fork Valley? Get a feel for where things are with our destination overview.

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