Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
Snowmass Peak in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness contains more than 183,000 acres on the Gunnison and White River National Forests. Almost 162,000 acres of the Wilderness is part of the White River National Forest. Elevations range from 9,000' to 14,000'+.
You'll find lots of people in Colorado's fourth largest Wilderness. People come here because this area meets their expectations in regards to the picture they have in their minds about true Rocky Mountain splendor. There's more than 100 miles of trail, 9 passes above 12,000', huge areas of wildflower-strewn alpine tundra, long glacier-carved valleys with beautiful alpine lakes nestling beneath high sheer cirques.
With six 14er's, Maroon Bells-Snowmass draws thousands of climbers every year. The stark, high-rising shale of the Maroon Bells, as reflected in Maroon Lake, is probably Colorado's most often photographed mountain scene. Because of the popularity of the Maroon Valley, shuttle buses run during the summer months (mid-June through Labor Day, plus weekends in September) to the Maroon Lake Wilderness Portal.
Climbers come here in large herds, even though these vertical, crumbly shale peaks are among the hardest to climb in Colorado. You'll want to know what you're getting into, and you'll want lots of good hardware and a stout helmet.
The Snowmass Creek Trail travels 16 miles to Maroon Lake and offers some of the most spectacular views of the Wilderness. The Twin Lakes and Copper Creek Trails also offer top-notch views. Many hikers head for the hot springs steaming near the head of Conundrum Creek. The Conundrum Trail has excellent scenery but wanders across hillsides covered in loose rocks. There is also very little water along the way.
Although there are still plenty of elk and deer in the Elk Mountains, their habitat is being severely threatened by increased development around Aspen and Snowmass. The year-round impact of masses and masses of transient people is very hard on the area, especially the more accessible (and consequently more trafficked) northern trails.
Overnight visitors must register themselves at the trailhead. The permit is free and non-limiting, but you must register and carry the permit on your person.
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness map
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area map
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