A summer vacation spent in Aspen Snowmass won’t be your average summer vacation. Why not? Because in the Aspen valley, you’ve got a summer activity smorgasbord right outside your door.
From shredding on mountain biking trails, hiking through alpine meadows, paddleboarding at the nature preserve, rafting down the Colorado River, or hitting the tees at the Snowmass Club, there’s something for everyone and for every day. That’s just a glimpse of the excitement you can expect from a summer spent in the Roaring Fork Valley.
In addition to the myriad active pursuits, be sure to plan a visit to the famous (for good reason) Maroon Bells. They’re the most photographed peaks in North America because of their accessibility and the spectacular scenery you’ll experience during any season of the year.
Visit the Maroon Bells: Summer to Fall
During the summer months (generally from mid-May through late fall) Maroon Creek Road gets busy with drivers, buses, bikers and even hikers. For Summer 2020, the road will be less accessible until late June.
Maroon Creek Road may close at any time (depending on the crowds), so reserving a seat on the RFTA shuttle from Aspen Highlands is the best way to guarantee your visit. You can call the Maroon Bells hotline at (970) 945-3319 for daily Forest Service updates.
Driving to the Maroon Bells
Maroon Creek Road will open on June 8, 2020.
If you prefer to drive your own vehicle (versus taking the shuttle), you’ll need to drive through the Welcome Station gate either before 8am or after 5pm. Between 8 and 5, personal vehicles aren’t allowed to enter.
Since you won’t be able to pay the $10 fee at the Welcome Center during the summer of 2020, you’ll need to purchase your $10 pass from the Aspen Chamber before getting on the road. If you already have a National Parks pass with a Golden Eagle Sticker, Golden Access, or America the Beautiful, you won’t need to purchase a day pass, since Maroon Bells access is already included.
To get to the Welcome Center, take Highway 82 to the Aspen roundabout. From the roundabout, you’ll exit onto Maroon Creek Road.
Taking the Maroon Bells Shuttle
If you’re planning to visit the Bells after 8am and before 5pm after June 28,2020, the Maroon Bells shuttle is your best option (you’re also welcome to bring your leashed dog along). Individual reservations ($15.95 each) are required for the Maroon Bells shuttle at Aspen Highlands. Aspen Highlands is 1.5 miles from the Aspen roundabout on Maroon Creek Road. You’ll need to either bus or drive to Aspen Highlands to board the shuttle.
Parking at Aspen Highlands is free for the first 30 minutes, but if you plan to leave your car at Highlands while visiting the Bells, plan to pay $15 for up to 8 hours of parking time. If the Highlands lot is full, you can park in the City of Aspen’s parking garage (427 Rio Grande Place) and take a free RFTA bus to Highlands. During September, you can also find overflow parking at Buttermilk Ski Area, where you can catch the free RFTA shuttle to take you to Highlands.
If you’re headed to Highlands from Snowmass, the free Village Shuttle will drop you off at the RFTA Intercept Lot on Highway 82, where you can transfer to a free RFTA bus. Just tell the bus driver you’re headed to Highlands.
Biking to the Maroon Bells
Bicycling to the Maroon Bells requires neither a pass nor a fee. Since Maroon Creek Road is closed to incoming cars between 8am and 5pm, your route will be relatively open and clear (though you’re required to bike single file). You can even start your ride at Aspen Highlands if you park or bring your bike on the bus — both Snowmass Village Shuttle and RFTA buses are equipped with bike racks (although RFTA will add a small surcharge).
Cycling to the Maroon Bells is a beautiful 16-mile ride round trip. You’ll climb 1,600 feet over 8 miles to get to the parking lot if you start at Aspen Highlands. The ride up takes an average of 90 minutes, and the ride down tends to take half that.
You’ll need to park your bike at the provided bike racks in the parking lot before hitting the trails. Bikes of any kind are not permitted at Maroon Lake nor in the scenic area.
Hiking to the Maroon Bells
If you’re eager for a 16-mile round trip scenic hike along a well-traveled road, the Bells are a rewarding destination. Either bus to or park at Aspen Highlands and you’re on your way.
Visit the Maroon Bells: Winter to Spring
In late November (weather and precipitation-depending), Maroon Creek Road closes and the bus service stops. When the gate closes, you’ll neither be able to shuttle nor drive. There are, however, some adventurous ways to experience the spectacular snow-covered Bells before the gate re-opens in early summer.
Snowmobiling to the Maroon Bells
The T-Lazy 7 (located at 3129 Maroon Creek Road) staffs a team of experienced guides who offer both regular and custom snowmobile tours of the Maroon Bells. The staff keeps Maroon Creek Road well-groomed in the winter, providing easy passage. Reserve your snowmobile tour early before T-Lazy 7’s tour calendar gets filled.
Cross Country Skiing to the Maroon Bells
Assuming you’re not eager to hike the snow-covered road all the way to the Bells and back, cross country skiing along Maroon Creek Road is a popular — and free — local wintertime activity (although the snow-covered road, kept groomed by T-Lazy 7, can also be fat-biked or skinned). Many skiers bring their four-legged friends and spend the day gliding to frozen Maroon Lake, enjoying a winter picnic, and enjoying the miles of downhill on the way back.