Maroon Lake / Scenic Loop (dayhike)

Trip Date: 8/20/2017

Location: White River National Forest, Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness


  • Maroon Bells Scenic Area is a fee area - parking fee at shuttle stop and fee for shuttle ticket.
  • Wilderness Permit: Backcountry travelers must register before entering Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Registration tags are free and available at all trailheads. You must keep a copy of the registration with you at all times during your trip.

Trail maps: aspentrailfinder

Directions: Traveling southeast on Colorado Highway 82 just north of Aspen take the first exit onto Maroon Creek Rd. at the traffic circle. Follow this road a mile and a half to a left turn onto Prospector Rd. This brings you to the Aspen Highlands parking area. Here is where you'll need to park your car, then head into the facility to purchase a shuttle ticket, then ride the shuttle up to the Maroon Snowmass trailhead.

Synopsis: An easy hike in some spectacular sub-alpine country. Be aware, though, that the Bells are a huge attraction, and unless you are very lucky you will likely have plenty of company. This trailhead is also a departure point for longer hikes and backpacking trips.

Trail sequence: Maroon Snowmass trail / Scenic loop trail / Maroon Snowmass

Type: Balloon loop

Distance: 2.1 miles

Elevation: Min. - 9608', Max. - 9730'


Rating: Easy (factors: rocky trail, altitude)

Notes: The bus trip from the shuttle stop to the trailhead is pretty and informative. Be aware that on the way up our driver mentioned we could hike the road back if we desired and the returning shuttles would pick us up along the way if we waved them down. The first one declined, saying they were too full. Fortunately the second one made room for us - it's a long walk back.

Track: Maroon Lake / Scenic Loop - White River NF: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- After departing the shuttle, pick up the trail just past the restrooms. The lake is obvious just below and the spectacular Maroon Bells are visible in the distance.

  -- Soon after the paved walk ends there is a fork. The right path leads directly down to the north side of the lake. (The left will head east for a while, but will also connect with the lakeside trail if you eventually want to turn back to the west and follow this track.)

  -- About halfway along the lake as you travel west you come to a junction with the Crater Lake trail. The paths are well marked, but just be sure to follow the trail that hugs the lakeshore. From here the trail gets rockier and slightly steeper, but it's still quite easy.

  -- Heading southwest along the Scenic Loop trail you eventually come to a wooden bridge over the creek. The trail loops to the southwest around a small pond from here and you can take it in either direction. Upon returning to the bridge, head back the way you came, or pick one of the alternate routes (there appear to be several use trails in the area). 

Photos: Flickr