A visit to Aspen Snowmass wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the iconic Maroon Bells. The twin 14,000-foot bell-shaped, striated peaks stand above aspen groves, hiking trails, the reflective Maroon Lake and fields of wildflowers. It’s no wonder the Maroon Bells are the most photographed and visited peaks in North America. A few guidelines and helpful tips will ensure an enjoyable visit and keep this beautiful area preserved for generations to come.

The New Maroon Bells Basecamp

For years the base of Aspen Highlands has been the gateway to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. Since private vehicles are restricted on Maroon Creek Road during the summer to minimize environmental impact, visitors are shuttled from this hub to the Maroon Bells in buses operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

New this summer, the Maroon Bells Basecamp visitor center primes you for your visit all informed, fueled and prepared before you board the bus.
Maroon Bells Basecamp as Aspen Highlands
Maroon Bells Basecamp at Aspen Highlands

Likened to a national park visitor center, an exhibit featuring Maroon Bells history with photos dating back to 1894 and a topography map will give you a peek into the past. Also worth a look, is an engaging display showcasing ski passes dating back to 2005–2006, when Aspen Snowmass began collaborating with the Aspen Art Museum to produce ski pass art by renowned contemporary artists.
Maroon Bells Basecamp
Maroon Bells Basecamp

The new Maroon Bells Basecamp
Aspen Snowmass Maroon Bells Basecamp

The new Maroon Bells Basecamp
Aspen Snowmass' Maroon Bells Basecamp

At the Basecamp, you can purchase your bus tickets to the Maroon Bells Recreation Area and grab a snack or a sandwich to eat in the lounge or bring with you to a picnic site. In an effort to reduce single-use plastic, a water bottle refill station is available for all guests to use, so bring your water bottle. Need a walking stick, Camelback, sunscreen or hat for your hike around Maroon Lake or to Crater Lake? The Basecamp has all of that and more.

Should you prefer to explore the Maroon Valley by bike, you have options. Rent a bike at the Basecamp or ride your own up to the Maroon Bells Scenic area. The ascent from the base of Aspen Highlands to the visitor area at the Maroon Bells is 1,500 feet in eight miles, so get your lungs ready! A less strenuous option is to load the bike on the designated area of the bus for the trip up and soar on your bike back down Maroon Creek Road.

Bus Schedule

Buses leave from Aspen Highlands to the Maroon Bells every 15 minutes starting at 8:05am. After 2pm the buses leave every 20 minutes. The guided bus tour gives you a fascinating, insightful perspective of the Maroon Valley — it’s geological history, the flora and fauna. The guide will point out avalanche chutes and the effects of the forces of nature. Buses leave the Maroon Bells Scenic Area to every 15 to 20 minutes. The last bus down leaves at 5pm.

Know Before You Go

Maroon Bells and waterfall
Maroon Bells and waterfall

Whether you have been a Scout or not, you will want to be prepared for your jaunt. The following tips will keep you comfortable:

• Wear Closed Toes Shoes – Preferably athletic shoes or hiking boots if you plan to hike.

• Dress in Layers – The weather will be cooler at the higher altitude and can change quickly. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms.

• Wear Sunscreen and a Hat – The sun’s rays are stronger at 9,580 feet (the elevation of Maroon Lake) meaning sunburn happens quickly.

• Hydrate – The air is very dry and there is less oxygen at higher elevations, so please bring water with you, especially if you are hiking.

• Pack In Your Food – There are no vending machines, restaurants or other supplies at Maroon Lake. Bring your own snacks and lunch if you plan to spend some time there.

Note: Cell phones do not work in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. If you need help, be sure to reach out to Forest Service personnel. They have radios that can reach outside the valley in an emergency.

While You Are There

Deer at Maroon Bells, Colorado
Deer at Maroon Bells, Colorado

You may choose to simply stroll down to the lake, enjoy a picnic, or take a hike. Hikes range from an easy 1-mile round-trip hike on the Maroon Lake Trail to a moderate 3.6-mile round trip hike to Crater Lake.

For a free 45-minute tour along the shore of Maroon Lake with a naturalist from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, meet outside the Maroon Bells Information Center near the bus drop off at 10:15am and 1:15pm.
As the US Forest Service Guide to the Maroon Bells Recreation Area states: “Careful use of this area will keep the natural treasures found here protected for generations.” Here is how you can be a responsible, sustainable visitor:

Pack It In/Pack It Out – Picnicking sites are available at Maroon Lake and East Maroon Portal. Any food or beverage containers carried into the Maroon Lake or the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area must be packed out. Note: There are trash containers at the lake and on the buses.

Public Restrooms – Can be found located near the bus drop-off/pick-up points.

Stick to the Trails – You can help protect this area by staying on trails. Meadows and tundra are especially vulnerable. Avoid short cutting trail switchbacks.

Keep Your Distance From the Wildlife – If you walk quietly and look closely, you may see animals and wildflowers. You will want to leave the wildflowers for others to enjoy. The behavior of wildlife can be unpredictable and dangerous, so please don’t approach.

Take Only Pictures and Leave Only Footprints – This is the Golden Rule for protecting our precious wilderness.

Enjoy your visit to the Maroon Bells!

About the Author

Susan Linden IAS
Susan Linden IAS

SUSAN LINDEN

Susan Linden has been wordsmithing as an advertising copywriter, feature writer, and storyteller since her college days. She left the whirlwind corporate world to live in the mountains and spends as much time as she can hiking, biking, and skiing in them. Working, playing, and raising a family in the Roaring Fork Valley for the last 29 years gives Susan a unique insider’s perspective to share.

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