Article: Part 6 US Road Trip Hike Maroon Bells
Part 6 of US Road Trip – Maroon Bells Hike
This is the 6th part of our US Cross Country Road Trip Adventure from the West Coast to the East Coast.
You can see the other parts (articles/videos/photos) here
On 15th of July 2014, we continued our journey from Heber City in Utah to Silt-Rifle in Colorado.
When you are on the road, you sometimes need to allow yourself to let loose and travel without a plan.
Prior to our road trip adventure we thought of a few points of interest to visit but overall we kept our plans free. Let’s see what we can see…
The ski resort Aspen was next on our list. We stayed at a hotel in Silt right next to the Colorado River. The day before we looked a bit into the visit to Aspen but overall didn’t really feel like wandering past designer stores and trendy cafés and restaurants.
At one point we suddenly found the Maroon Bells Recreation Area which is near Aspen. The name Maroon Bells sounded like a mix of a band and a TV series. They are two mountain peaks in the Elk Mountains and received this name because of the red colour on the rocks and their bells like shape.
Over the past 8 years we have travelled extensively around the USA but we never heard of it.
The next morning we headed to the mountains. From Silt it took us about an hour in our minivan until we reached the Maroon Bells Interpretive Center at the Aspen Highlands Village.
You can reach it from Aspen by car in less than 10 minutes (see more details at the end of this article).
To preserve the nature one can only explore the recreation area by bus during the day in the summer which is from mid-June until Labor Day (Labor Day is the first Monday in September). There is limited access for vehicles when the buses are not operating.
We parked our car for free outside of the Maroon Bells Interpretive Center at the Aspen Highlands Village and then purchased our ticket inside the center (the building adjacent to the parking lot).
It was a Wednesday and at the ticket counter a friendly staff member told us that it was half price Wednesday which was pretty cool. Was an even better day ahead of us?
The entrance fee includes the free shuttle bus that takes you around the recreation area.
We boarded the bus and drove all the way up until the station near Maroon Lake.
Up there a friendly staff member took a photo of us with the beautiful bells and the lake in the background.
It immediately felt like a very special place.
From the lake you can do four types of hikes:
1. Maroon Lake Trail
An easily accessible trail which starts shortly after the parking lot. You simply have to head to the lake.
Length: It is a 1 mile round trip hike along the lake
Difficulty level: Easy
2. Falls Loop Trail
The second trail starts at the top end of the lake just after the bridge and leads you past cascading waterfalls and the quiet of a beaver pond.
Length: 1.5 mile round trip
Difficulty level: Easy
3. Maroon Creek Trail
This beautiful trail leads you downstream along Maroon Creek.
Length: 3.2 miles one way hike
Difficulty level: Easy
4. Crater Lake Trail
Number four is for more advanced hikers leading you along a steep and rocky trail past the Deadly Bells Kiosk and one has to climb on an ancient rockslide.
Length: 3.6 miles round trip
Difficulty level: Moderate
All the trails were signposted and you can get a free map of the area and trails at the Maroon Bells Interpretive Center.
Initially we walked a little bit along the first trail. It was fairly busy there but not like a visit to the Grand Canyons.
Although we travel a lot, we really like it when there are hardly any tourists around and so we headed to the beginning of the third trail as we guessed that most people would not want to do the long trail.
The Maroon Creek Trail starts at a bridge just off the lake. It was a wonderful hike. We guessed correctly as there were hardly any people around. We only met two couples along the way! It sort of leads you the way back down just a bit further in and from where the bus drove up to the lake.
At first the hike was shaded underneath forest trees and bit by bit, more beauty was revealed. This hike is good for wildlife sightings although we only saw a beaver which quickly ran past us.
The trail ends at Maroon Creek Road at the East Maroon Portal from where you can take the next bus back to the Center. Make sure you go to the road.
It is best to start this hike in the morning instead of the afternoon because the buses near the end of the operating hours may be too full and so the bus drivers cannot take you with them.
A visit in the summer is a great time to see the nature and it is probably also very picturesque in autumn.
The day at the bells felt really special and we can highly recommend a visit. It seemed like nature at its best something that the state of Colorado has plenty of.
How to get from Aspen to the Aspen Highlands Village:
A free shuttle service takes you from the RFTA Rubey Park Transportation Center in Aspen to it (departs every 20 minutes starting on the hour).
Entrance tickets to the Maroon Bells Recreation Area:
Adults: USD 6.00
Children under 6 and seniors: USD 4.00
Bus schedule from the Maroon Bells Interpretive Center to Maroon Lake
Operating hours: 9am to 5pm
Frequency of buses: Every 20 to 30 minutes.
Times/months of the year the buses are operating:
Mid-June to Labour Day: buses run daily
After Labour Day until September service only commences on Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s.
Follow this link to visit the website of the Maroon Bells Scenic Area