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The Best Time to Visit Maroon Bells in 2023

The Best Time to Visit Maroon Bells in 2023

The Rocky Mountains are packed with incredible locations, but Maroon Bells is one of the most scenic and enjoyable. Located a short drive outside Aspen, Colorado, you’ll never forget standing in this majestic spot.

There’s plenty to do while visiting Maroon Bells and the surrounding area. You can go hiking, camping, or fishing, all while taking in incredible mountain views.

They’re easy to get to, yet transport you to a different reality where developed structures are a distant memory. But there are some critical things to know about the best time to visit Maroon Bells, including reservation requirements, road closures, and parking restrictions.

Fortunately for you, our travel experts did the hard work for you by rounding up the best, least busy, cheapest, and worst times to visit. Let’s dive in!

Why You Should Visit Maroon Bells

The central attraction to Maroon Bells are two iconic peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, that stand tall over Maroon Lake. The high-alpine area is one of the most picturesque spots and is also one of the most heavily photographed.

It’s in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area, about 10 miles from Aspen and 16 miles from Snowmass Village, another Colorado mountain town.

Around 300,000 visitors come from far and wide to see these majestic mountains each year. Maroon Peak tops out at an impressive 14,163 feet (4,317 meters), while the North Maroon Peak is 14,019 ft (4,273 m) tall.

Even the reflection-grabbing Maroon Lake sits at a high elevation of 9,580 ft (2,920 m). The area, mountains, and lake take their name from the maroon-tinted mudstone that makes up the area.

And trust us when we tell you that they’re a sight to behold (if you go during the right time of year, that is).

Overall Best Time to Visit Maroon Bells

Group of yellow flowers in a valley pictured during the best time to go to Maroon Bells

Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Maroon bells is in the late spring or early summer, as the spring rains invite the flowers to burst open in full bloom. It’s a picture-perfect landscape.

You can also visit during September to catch the stunning colors of the leaves, but going anytime from May to September is ideal.

As expected for North America, the summer months are the warmest. When you’re visiting this elevation, it can still get quite chilly, with some mountain peaks retaining snow year-round under the right conditions.

But during the day and in the sunshine you can expect comfortable temperatures. Hiking, camping, and wilderness exploration are also best in the summer.

While intense thunder and lightning rain storms can roll in and preparation is vital, the warm summer months are the most comfortable time to rough it and take to the trail or backcountry.

Most people come just for day visits and have a selection of easy-to-moderate trails they can tackle. The 1-mile Maroon Lake Scenic Trail loop rounds the lake for a gentle stroll.

You can head 3.2 miles up the Maroon Creek Trail for more wildlife viewing or take the 3.6-mile Crater Lake Trail to get a glimpse of another alpine lake.

Cheapest Time to Visit Maroon Bells

The cheapest time to visit Maroon Bells is during the shoulder seasons, either in early spring or fall. Since the height of the tourist season is in the middle of the summer, you can avoid crowds by visiting during this time.

If you can go during the late spring or fall, you’ll get better deals on accommodations, rental cars, and activities in the area.

It can save you a good amount of cash. Book in advance to get the best flights, and use flexible dates when searching. The only issue is that the weather can be even more unpredictable and possibly much colder.

It’s not always the case, and sometimes spring and fall weather in the high-elevation spots of the Colorado Rocky Mountains can be perfect, but you’ll want to watch out for fast-moving storms.

Another issue is that the roads and some trails aren’t open year-round. As you probably expect, this spot can get tons of snow. The roads accessing the best parts of Maroon Bells close during the heaviest snow starting in November, then reopen in late May.

Least Busy Time to Visit Maroon Bells

Gorgeous winter day pictured during the least busy time to visit Maroon Bells with snow-capped mountains in the background and a dirt path in the foreground

Photo Spirit/Shutterstock

The least busy time to visit Maroon Bells is on the weekdays, regardless of the time of year.

The weekends bring in the most crowds, as people from nearby major cities like Denver, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs make the drive over, in addition to the plentiful out-of-state tourists.

It might help you get cheaper flights, but to get the best deals, leave your dates flexible and fly into Denver. But if you can make your Maroon Bells visit during the weekdays, you’ll avoid some of these crowds.

That is helpful as the area gets to be extremely busy, especially in the middle of the summer.

To get photos without hoards of people standing around, go during the weekdays. It’ll also help your chances of getting a reservation and deals on transportation, such as rental cars.

You need a reservation to access the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, including the private vehicle trailhead or the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) shuttle from Aspen. If you’d like to stay overnight by camping, planning is crucial.

Permits are in limited supply and high demand and become available on rolling dates throughout the year. Believe it or not, you can camp during the winter if you want to avoid the crowds.

Worst Time to Visit Maroon Bells

For most people, the worst time to visit Maroon Bells is during the snowy winter months. As the snow rolls in during November, the roads accessing the main Maroon Bells trailheads are closed for safety.

Once the snow melts enough for them to plow them off, they reopen, usually in late May. If you’re willing to throw on warm clothes and hop on cross-country skis, snowshoes, or a snowmobile, you can visit Maroon Bells covered in a layer of white snow.

This time isn’t ideal for many, but it can be amazing if you like these adventures. Unfortunately, another problem with the winter months is that the accommodations and flights around Colorado can be expensive.

The major ski resorts draw in tons of visitors each year, filling up planes, rental cars, and hotels. Generally speaking, it’s the worst for Maroon Bells visitors if you would rather see them during the summer or shoulder seasons.

Other people might hate going during the peak season, usually in July and August.

During this time, the crowds will be the busiest, the hotels expensive, and the summer dryness in full swing. While it’s still a great time to go for many, it might not be your favorite. Go for shoulder season instead.

Things to Consider

Wooden sign that says Maroon Bells Snowmass pictured during the fall with gorgeous yellow leaves on the trees

Virrage Images/Shutterstock

Before you head over to Maroon Bells or start planning your trip, there are a few items you need to be aware of:

  • Reservations required. Access to the area is extremely popular, and as a result, the authorities have instituted a reservation system for parking, shuttles, and camping. Book well in advance to ensure you get a spot.
  • Changing weather. Colorado mountain weather can be unpredictable and change at the drop of a hat before any meteorologist can weigh in. You should always be prepared for cold temperatures and the possibility of rain. Going in the early morning can help your chances of avoiding afternoon showers.
  • Altitude sickness. Maroon Bells is at an extremely high altitude compared to what most people are used to. This height can impact your body, even resulting in severe altitude sickness. Stay hydrated, limit alcohol intake, and don’t push yourself too hard.
  • Fragile environment. The area is a delicate ecosystem that has seen negative consequences of human interaction. Do your best to stay on trails and clean up after yourself. And the delicate mudstone can crumble, becoming dangerous projectiles across the steep terrain.
  • Wildlife. This area is home to an abundance of animals, including dangerous ones like bears, mountain lions, and moose. Don’t feed any wildlife. And pay attention to signage and ranger warnings during your visit. They are for your safety.
  • Winter snow. From November to early May, the roads to Maroon Bells close down due to snow. You won’t be able to visit without getting in on snowshoes, skis, or a snowmobile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the best time to visit Maroon Bells:

What time of day is best to see Maroon Bells?

The early morning is the best time to see Maroon Bells. The weather is at its best, the crowds at their lowest, and the views can be spectacular. If you have what it takes to beat the rush, you’ll get rewarded in full by visiting early in the day.

How long do you spend at Maroon Bells?

How long to spend at Maroon Bells depends on what you’d like to do. Most people spend one or two hours in the area, completing a short hike. But you can go on longer hikes that might take around three hours or stay overnight camping and backpacking in the Wilderness Area.

Is sunrise or sunset better at Maroon Bells?

Most people agree that sunrise is better at Maroon Bells. It gets you ahead of the crowds and gives you a picture-perfect reflection over Maroon Lake.

But other people like to go later in the day, although pushing it close to sunset usually is reserved for camping overnight due to the shuttle schedule.

What time of year are the fall colors in Maroon Bells?

The fall colors come to Maroon Bells around September and October. They usually come earlier than other low-elevation areas and can be difficult to time perfectly. But during these two months is typically when the gorgeous orange, red, and yellow leaves come into full swing.

Can you see the Maroon Bells without a reservation?

No, you need a reservation to visit the Maroon Bells. Whether going by private car to the trailhead, taking the shuttle from Aspen, or camping overnight, reservations are required. This need is a relatively new requirement, but it seems that due to the area’s popularity, it will likely stay around from here forward.

What town is closest to Maroon Bells?

Aspen is the closest town to Maroon Bells, located about 10 miles from the main trailhead. Another popular town is Snowmass Village, just 16 miles from Maroon Bells. Many people stay overnight in either area to check out the Maroon Bells during the day.

So, When Should You Visit Maroon Bells?

Anytime from June through August is the best time to see the Maroon Bells. This time gets you the warmest weather and most stunning views, but spring and fall can also be great for blooming flowers or fall foliage.

The road to Maroon Bells closes entirely due to snow in the winter, typically from November to late May, so avoid going then, unless you want to hike in over snow. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!