Punch “Colorado” into Google, and chances are you will find an image of the Maroon Bells – some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in all of the Rocky Mountains. Located in the Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, The Maroon Bells feature a little bit of everything you’d expect from the Rockies – Alpine lakes, aspens, meadows and a dose of wildflowers; it’s all here.
The best way to see these gorgeous peaks is by hiking the traditional 4 Pass Loop, a 23.4 mile trip that can be done in 2-4 days and passes through the eponymous West Maroon Pass (12,500’), Frigid Air Pass (12,415’), Trail Rider Pass (12,420’), and Buckskin Pass (12,500′). It’s best suited for summer and fall once all the snow has melted. But we warned: during peak season of July and August, you will have some serious company on this trail. If solitude is you’re thing, it’s best to wait until later in the fall once the crowds have dissipated. Summer will have the splendid scenery of wildflowers and greenery, while fall will give you the glorious golden hues. (Also in summer, remember that the Rockies are notorious for their afternoon thunderstorms; plan to be below the tree line long before then).
Start the West Maroon Portal in the White River National Forest, and take the West Maroon Trail to start. Backcountry camping is not permitted on the 4 Pass Loop; you’ll need to set up camp in one of the designated campsites. Getting the permit required might be difficult, however, especially during peak season. A bear canister is also required.
So maybe there’s still some time to get out into the Maroon Bells this season – but temps are rapidly dropping, and you might be better off putting it down for next season; it’s a hike worth trekking to.