There is no doubt that one of the most popular itinerary items for Aspen Snowmass guests is visiting the beloved Maroon Bells- the most photographed mountains in North America. With their snow-capped peaks rising more than 14,000 feet above sea level and the glorious reflection of Maroon Lake painted below them, the Maroon Bells offers stunning scenery, wonder, and color throughout the season.
Due to growing visitor demand, new regulations have been put in place for access. There are multiple ways to visit- so let’s break it down:
1) Use a permitted outfitter: There are a handful of local outfitters that operate guided tours in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, providing a wide range of activities and experiences. This is a great way to see the Maroon Bells and learn about local flora, fauna, geology, and history along the way. Outfitters and guides conduct commercial trips under a Special Use Permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service. It is important to make sure the outfitter you choose holds the necessary permits and authorization. When booking a trip at the Maroon Bells, ask whether your outfitter or guide holds a valid Forest Service permit.
One local outfitter to consider is Blazing Adventures. Blazing Adventures provides incredible guided hiking and biking tours in this location every day. Whether you are hiking through aspen groves or cruising with the Bells backdrop behind you- guides will educate you on the area, history, and wildlife as you become immersed in the beauty. This outfitter has access to a couple different hiking trails within the Maroon Bells Wilderness. The trail selected for your hike will depend on availability and group dynamics. The Maroon Bells Downhill Biking is perfect for those individuals who want to engage in a biking activity but wish to cut the uphill section from the day. Blazing Adventures transports the excursion participants to Maroon Lake before beginning the 12-mile downhill bike ride into the core of Aspen. For more information on each tour, visit https://www.blazingadventures.com/maroon-bells/.
2) Rent a bike: Reservations are not required to bike up the road, but it is very important to be cautious of cars and other vehicles while riding. Although the road has limited vehicle access, safety remains an important factor with this option. All bikes are expected to adhere to proper bicycling etiquette, including riding single file with the direction of traffic. You may opt to ride a road bike or use an e-bike depending on your preference and physical fitness level.
Bike rentals are available throughout downtown Aspen, including at the Blazing Adventures Shop located at the base of Aspen Mountain. For more information, visit https://www.blazingadventures.com/rentals/.
3) Ride the Maroon Bells bus from Aspen Highlands: Reservations are required! This service will run from June 7 to October 17. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. To get here, riders can catch the free RFTA shuttle from Ruby Park in downtown Aspen to Aspen Highlands or pay for parking at Aspen Highlands. It is encouraged that you to purchase a bus reservation in advance to ensure permitted access during your stay. Reservations will be available beginning April 12, 2021. For more information, visit https://aspenchamber.org/plan-trip/trip-highlights/maroon-bells/reservations.
4) Drive your own vehicle: Reservations are required! Parking reservations will be required when the road opens in mid-May. Parking reservations will be available for half-day, whole-day, or overnight use. Commercial drop-offs are not allowed at any time. Reservations will be available beginning April 12, 2021. For more information, visit https://aspenchamber.org/plan-trip/trip-highlights/maroon-bells/reservations.
After reading, I hope you are inspired to plan your trip and feel confident in knowing your options to visit the Maroon Bells. Choose to experience the beauty of the area, stand in amazement, soak in the moment – and I promise you will not regret it.
– Jessica Boone is an outdoor enthusiast and Assistant Director of Group Sales at Blazing Adventures. You can find her at firstname.lastname@example.org