The Aspens of Maroon Bells
Photo: Kevnick Photography/Colorado Tourism
Traverse Colorado's Maroon Bells
: 45 days
: 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 twoWest Maroon and Frigid Airin 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.
: A copy of Trails Illustrated's Maroon Bells map ($12; rei.com). Tip: Call the Aspen Ranger District for trail conditions before you leave home (970-925-3445) and stock up on supplies in Glenwood Springs.
: 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.