The past weekend, we decided to take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday to spend some time in Aspen. We visited briefly for a few hours in the winter to see the X Games, but didn’t really see the city. Our goal for the weekend was to get away, relax, and recharge from everyday life. We booked the Aspen Meadows resort for the weekend (they offered a great Colorado resident rate) and headed West for the weekend!
We started the trip by driving over Independence Pass, the highest paved road crossing the Continental Divide. It had opened for the season the previous weekend and we watched the weather change dramatically as we climbed to the summit. The temperature was in the 30s when we reached the pass and we watched skiers finishing their backcountry runs, while I was in flip flops & a light shirt. Funny how quickly weather changes here!
As soon as we started descending, the scene quickly changed back to Spring as we neared Aspen. Exactly as the name suggests, there were forests of Aspens all around. You might remember our trip to Crested Butte in the Fall to enjoy the aspens in their peak yellow color, so this was a fun comparison! The spring aspen color are bright, lime green – exactly as you see in the photo below.
We had no actual plans for the weekend, although we had heard that the Maroon Bells were something to experience. I had no idea how incredibly beautiful this location is – we ended up visited these mountain three separate time during our trip. We started with a brief scouting trip to see how the trail looked (as there is still a good bit of snow on the mountains. We returned the next morning for the real hike – where Kirk captured this iconic photo with the reflected mountains in Maroon Lake. You can see my version, taken with my camera phone, on Instagram.
I got my new pack for backpacking last week, so we loaded it up for our weekend hikes to get practice hiking with extra weight. After (literally) not being able to carry my own weight on our backcountry hut trip in April, I am determined to be prepared the next time we take an overnight hike.
The trail was dry for the first half mile, but quickly transitioned to snow pack. It was fairly well packed from frequent hiking, so we didn’t have too much trouble hiking without snowshoes from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake. The views along the way were stunning, with the mountains shooting out of the ground around us.
During the hike, we would periodically hear what sounded like thunder, although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. With the melting snow, there were fairly frequent avalanches happening on the back mountains. Don’t worry, this wasn’t the mountains we were hiking on, but once we could see Crater Lake you could watch the avalanches spill down the mountains behind the lake. We watched an avalanche directly behind me while taking the picture below.
After a snack break, we started the hike back to the base. It was a bit trickier (slippery!) on the way down on the snow, we could have used spikes to make our trip a little easier. This was a moderately difficult hike, with just a little extra effort from the snow. There are three 14ers in the area that are accessible a little later in the year (once the snow has melted), which are class 3 climbs. If this hike is any indication, they are hikes we can’t wait to conquer in the future.
We enjoyed our time at the Maroon Bells so much, Kirk had the great idea to come back for sunset! We were one of only a few couples to brave the colder evening temps to enjoy the sight. Unfortunately, the nearly cloudless sky didn’t make for the spectacular sight we were expecting. But I’ll take any excuse to stare at these views. Did I mention we brought some wine to enjoy?
This was easily the most beautiful hike we have done in Colorado, and may be one of the most beautiful sights we have seen period. The mountains here have a very European feel, reminding me of the Alps in Austria. I would happily head back for another hike (there are so many other trails to be explored) and we’ve already talked about this being a trip we’d love to repeat.
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to do another amazing hike – but I’ll have to save those photos and recap for another day.
Questions for you:
- Where was your last hike?
- Have you ever witnessed an avalanche on a hike? Hopefully from a safe distance!