Traverse Colorado's Maroon Bells

But don't worry, we've stacked the deck in your favor. Welcome to Expedition Planning 101. Your assignment: Read the tips on gear, first aid, and food; pick one of our five ready-to-roll itineraries; and then get out the door. Just remember to be humble—Ma Nature won't be intimidated by your trash-talking buddies.

Maroon Bells

The Aspens of Maroon Bells    Photo: Kevnick Photography/Colorado Tourism

Traverse Colorado's Maroon Bells
DURATION : 4–5 days
THE PLAN : You've seen the jagged Maroon Bells reflected in Maroon Lake in a thousand postcards. Hike the 28-mile Four Pass Loop around the twin fourteeners, however, and you'll see them from angles the day-hiking crowd misses out on. Start by leaving your car at Maroon Lake ($10 fee), just ten miles south of Aspen, and trek a mile southwest to Crater Lake. Be warned: All the passes on the route are above 12,000 feet, so tackle the loop clockwise, knocking out two—West Maroon and Frigid Air—in one ten-mile push on the first day. You'll sleep well that night. On day two, enjoy 40-foot-high King Falls, in Fravert Basin, before heading up the steep Trail Rider Pass. Camp that night at Snowmass Lake, where you can land eager cutthroat trout (try a woolly bugger) for breakfast. And when you finally get to the top of Buckskin Pass, don't forget to look over your shoulder for a stunning view of Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak.

ESSENTIALS : A copy of Trails Illustrated's Maroon Bells map ($12; Tip: Call the Aspen Ranger District for trail conditions before you leave home (970-925-3445) and stock up on supplies in Glenwood Springs.

PREREQUISITES : Some experience at altitudes above 10,000 feet, moderate fitness; you should be able to jog five miles without stopping before trying the whole circuit.

WHEN TO GO : Mid-September, after the mosquitoes and blackflies have died down and before the swarms of tourists descend to see the aspens change color.

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