In terms of hikers per square foot of trail, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more crowded trail in all of Colorado than the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail. Fortunately, it also has some of the prettiest scenery for a trail that barely stretches a half-mile, a perfect view of the iconic Maroon Bells. The path runs along Maroon Lake, past numerous benches, interpretive signs and a warning about how dangerous trying to climb the steep, eroded Maroon Bells can be for novices. Don’t worry – this trail goes no closer to the Bells than the end of the lake, where hikers turn around or can continue another 1.5 miles to Crater Lake, where there’s a little more solitude. This lake is one of the most-photographed spots in Colorado. You’ve probably seen it on Facebook and Instagram. But you haven’t really seen it unless you’ve been in person.
I hiked this in 2010, but only because it was the very beginning of a four-day loop through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, a phenomenal backpacking trip known as the Four Pass Loop. I took hundreds of pictures and submitted a dozen to my editors at The Colorado Springs Gazette. And wouldn’t you know it, the one chosen to accompany my article on the Four Pass Loop was the photo of the Maroon Bells from Maroon Lake. Sometimes the best photos are taken from the easiest to reach places.
- Due to crowds and limited parking, in summer day hikers must take a shuttle bus from the Aspen Highlands ski area between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Plan accordingly.
- Maroon Creek Road usually closes for the winter in mid-November, after which it requires a long ski or snowmobile ride to reach the lake. But the winter views are unparalleled and crowds nonexistent.
- This hike is very short, offering just a glimpse of this majestic area. Take a longer day hike to Crater Lake or beyond, of bring a backpack to camp overnight in one of Colorado’s most famed wilderness areas.
Recommended season(s): Early spring to late fall.
–R. Scott Rappold