Maroon Creek

One-way Distance: 3.5 - 4 miles
Difficulty: Easy (downhill only)
Elevation: 8715 - 9640 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Maroon Lake
Fee: $10/vehicle or $6/person bus pass
Attractions: Scenic Maroon Bells area

View Maroon Creek in a larger map

The Maroon Creek trail is located in the White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado. The trail follows the banks of West Maroon Creek between Maroon Lake and the East Maroon Wilderness Portal. Hikers are treated to beautiful scenic views of the iconic Maroon Bells and a forested trail from which an occasional moose might be glimpsed. This post takes advantage of the RFTA bus service for a drop off at Maroon Lake so that the trail can be hiked down the canyon where we can once again be picked up by the bus and taken back to our vehicle.

Public parking is available at Aspen Highlands Village where a bus pass can be purchased for the ride to Maroon Lake. The buses operate between the middle of June and the beginning of October. Starting at 9am a bus departs every 20 minutes with the last one returning to Aspen Highlands at 5pm. Be aware that during peak times, such as when the aspen trees are displaying their brilliant yellow and orange colors in mid September, that the lines can be very long.

The Maroon Creek trail begins near the campground and parking area where it immediately crosses the a bridge over the creek.

The trail itself is primitive but well worn and easy to follow.

As the trail begins the thick canopy of the trees blocks out much of the sunlight.

After being secluded within the thick spruce forest, as the trail began, it emerges into the open and passes over a large talus slope.

Just past the 1 mile point there is a fork in the trail that recrosses the creek and leads to the West Wilderness Portal Overflow Parking area. Many people park here when the lot at Maroon Lake is full. To continue down the Maroon Creek trail do not cross the bridge. The Maroon Creek trail continues down the south bank.

A lush carpet of moss and ferns adorn the thickly forested hillside in the shady areas along the trail.

Eventually the forest becomes mixed with aspen trees and the ground cover changes to various grasses and wildflowers.

Near the 2.2 mile point the trail crosses another bridge that this time ferries it over the cascading torrent of East Maroon Creek.

After crossing East Maroon Creek the trail comes to its one uphill section where it climbs out of the drainage, gaining about 80 feet of elevation, to its junction with the East Portal trail.

Besides a few hikers the Maroon Creek trail receives a lot of use from equestrians.

Near the East Maroon Wilderness Portal the trail crosses the creek again and comes to an end at the lower trailhead where there is normally ample parking as well as a day use area with picnic tables. To get to the bus stop follow the road up the hill to the Maroon Creek Road.

While waiting for the bus to come by you can be further amazed by views of the impressive bulk of the 14,026 foot Pyramid Peak that pierces the Colorado sky above East Maroon Creek.

Those that choose to drive themselves may want to park at the East Wilderness Portal trailhead and hike the trail round trip from there although it shouldn't be a problem getting on the bus at Maroon Lake and catching a ride back to the lower trailhead. There is a mandatory $10 fee that is collected at the Forest Service boundary for anyone driving beyond that point. Whether you choose to visit during the summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom or in September when the aspen trees are ablaze in their fall colors you will find the Maroon Creek trail a most pleasant experience. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.