Maroon Lake Scenic Loop

Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 9585 - 9641 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Maroon/Snowmass
Fee: $6/adult, $4/youth bus pass
Attractions: Maroon Bells, wheelchair accessible

View Maroon Lake in a larger map

Maroon Lake is located in the White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado. The Scenic Loop trail crosses a meadow from the parking area to Maroon Lake and continues along the west shore of the lake where it crosses several bridges over West Maroon Creek before coming to an end. The trail doesn't actually loop around the lake at present so hikers must turn around and return by the same route. At the time of this post the area around the lakes inlet was closed due to an aggressive moose that had been in the area.

Vehicle access to Maroon Lake is restricted between 9am and 5pm to help reduce the impact on the area's environment.Visitors can still get to the trailhead by purchasing an RFTA tour bus ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the Aspen Highlands Village where free parking is also available. The busses depart every 20 minutes. As the bus travels up the valley to the trailhead riders are treated to a guided tour of Maroon Creek Road and its surroundings. Each bus has a bicycle rack that can accommodate up to 3 bikes for those that would like to coast back down the road. For those that choose to get there early and drive their own vehicle be aware that there is a mandatory $10/vehicle fee. Those with a valid handicap placard or license plate are exempt from the travel restriction. The road opens on Memorial Day and closes when the snow levels make it impassible which usually occurs by mid October. For more information and other exemptions visit the USDAFS website.

The busses drop their passengers off right at the trailhead where there is a restroom and water fountain.

The upper portion of the trail is paved and wheelchair accessible.

The lower section of the trail is graveled but should also be suitable for a wheelchair although a little assistance may be required.

At the time of this post the section of trail near the inlet was closed due to an aggressive moose in the area.

The iconic Maroon Bells, that tower over 14,000 feet above sea level, dominate the skyline at the head of the valley. Their breathtaking beauty is visible from most everywhere once you step away from the trailhead.

Almost as striking is the ridge of cliffs that line the west side of the lake. Here visitors can get a closer look of the Maroon Formation that makes up many of the higher peaks in the Elk Range. Interestingly enough, these are sedimentary rocks that were uplifted millions of year ago. Granite mountains, like Capitol Peak and Snowmass, were formed later by lava that intruded through the surface after the uplift.

There are several campgrounds along Maroon Creek Road for those wishing to spend more time in the area. If backpacking appeals to you be sure to acquire the appropriate backcountry permit first. To experience a longer hike without needing to go backpacking then consider the hike up to Crater Lake that begins at the same trailhead and has a round trip distance of a little less than 4 miles. The Forest Service seems to be doing an outstanding job preserving the natural resources and local environment. With thousands of visitors every year to such a small area the impact would otherwise be devastating without their constant vigilance. Because of their efforts Maroon Lake and the Maroon Bells should be just as beautiful when you visit as they were for us. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.