If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve seen the photo: the Maroon Bells, the Aspen area’s famous twin peaks, towering over a lake. An extremely popular 1.8-mile trail leads to Crater Lake, at the base of these majestic peaks. Though short, the trail is rugged and rocky. Pack a lunch to enjoy at the lake or for a longer day hike turn right and make the steep climb to Buckskin Pass, which reveals gorgeous views of the surrounding wilderness. Good fishing can be found in Crater Lake.
- For a classic Colorado experience, make Crater Lake a starting point for a longer backpacking or hiking trip in this wilderness area. At the lake, going left leads up West Maroon Pass and going right goes to Buckskin Pass. They’re both worthy destinations which can be linked in a longer trip on the Four Pass Loop.
- It’s a mandatory bus ride to the trailhead between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in summer, so pack your patience along with food and water. Turn at the Aspen Highlands ski area to catch the shuttle.
- Don’t forget the cash. There’s a mandatory fee ($10 per vehicle in the summer of 2016) to visit the area.
Recommended season(s): Spring to fall.
–R. Scott Rappold