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.

Mar 16, 2009
Outside Magazine
Maroon Bells

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

Pro Tip: Gregg Treinish

(1) Gold Bond is good for your feet and your undercarriage.
(2) Name each campsite and mark down the GPS coordinates so you can plug them into Google Earth when you get home.


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.