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Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado

Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, Colorado

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Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail

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  • The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake from the trail.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • The trail enters the wilderness area just as it leaves Maroon Lake.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Aspen at the peak of fall color.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Once it climbs above the aspen groves, the trail reveals magnificent views all around.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • The Sleeping Sexton ridge north of the Maroon Bells.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Pyramid Peak's false summit.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Crater Lake in Colorado's Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. - Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Light plays on the shoulders of the Maroon Bells near Crater Lake.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Crater Lake in Colorado's Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Sunlight on the aspens at Crater Lake in Colorado's Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Peak aspen color.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Pyramid Peak (14,026 ft).- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • View of Maroon Lake from the trail.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
  • Maroon Lake.- Crater Lake + Maroon Lake Hike via the Maroon-Snowmass Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Amazing views. Great fall color. Easy to moderate hike.
Cons: 
Can be crowded. Shuttle bus schedule.
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Region:
Sawatch Range + Elk Mountains, CO
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
476.00 ft (145.08 m)
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
4.20 mi (6.76 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
9,600.00 ft (2,926.08 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

One of the most spectacular and accessible hikes in the Colorado's Maroon Bells Recreation Area is the hike up the Maroon-Snomass Trail from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake. This is a great trail to take after watching the sunrise from the bottom of Maroon Lake. It is popular and crowded during the peak hours when the shuttle bus is running, so doing it early is recommended.

The short trail to the foot of Maroon Lake leaves from the day use parking area along the north side of the lake to enter the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, and then it starts to climb. Parts of this first half of the trail are a bit steep and rocky. At the top of the switchbacks there is a tremendous view of Maroon Lake below. The trail levels out somewhat and begins a very scenic rolling climb with fantastic views on all sides. In the fall, this section of West Maroon Creek has fabulous color from the aspen trees. Just before Crater Lake there is a nice overlook above the lake on the left side of the trail. From here it is a five-minute walk to the lake.

Crater Lake is shallow and can look more brown than blue in some light, but the reflected views of the Maroon Bells, the lower reaches of Pyramid Peak, and the aspen/conifer forest all around are spectacular. The immense scale of the setting is humbling with 14,000-foot peaks towering above. After Crater Lake the West Maroon Trail splits off and continues up to West Maroon Pass (6.5 miles) and on to Crested Butte (12 miles) or around the 24-mile Four Pass Loop. This hike is a sort of rite of passage for Colorado locals, and there are shuttle services to return to Aspen at a (somewhat) reasonable price. 

During summer and fall, there is no automobile access to the Maroon Bells day use area between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but a shuttle bus runs during that time from Aspen Highlands to Maroon Lake. The need to catch the last shuttle bus at 5 p.m. can cut time short, so start early enough to explore this beautiful area. People camping at one of the three small campgrounds on Maroon Creek Road can drive their car anytime, as can cars with handicapped passengers. The best plan is to get up early, drive in to watch the sunrise on the Maroon Bells, stay and explore the fantastic hike to Crater Lake, relax as long as you like, and leave whenever you wish. 

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(16 within a 30 mile radius)

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(20 within a 30 mile radius)

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