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Element Eden Road Trip - The Maroon Bells

Live Learn Grow Road Trip: The Maroon Bells

This might sound bratty, but my job requires me to travel so much that sometimes I worry I’ll stop appreciating how drop dead gorgeous this planet is. Just when I was starting to feel like I couldn’t be impressed, I stumbled across a place that literally made my jaw drop: Maroon Bells.

Maroon Bells is the most photographed place in Colorado, which is impressive considering how dang amazing the state is. But I totally get why: picture jagged peaks rising behind a glassy lake, in the foreground a meadow covered in wildflowers, to the back of you mountains so purple that you finally understand what they’re talking about in “America the Beautiful.” To top it off, there’s a trail leading into the wilderness that dumps you at the rim of a milky turquoise lake, where you can sit and listen to small, far-off avalanches rumble down the mountains surrounding you. If this is heaven on Earth, I’d believe it.

Another perk of the place? We were a skip, hop and jump away from Aspen. My entire knowledge of the place was develop by Dumb and Dumber, so I was pleasantly surprised to find some amazing mountain biking trails, a small-town feel, and (have you noticed a trend yet?) great coffee. We camped at Silver Queen Campground, where we stalked the marshland at dusk and found a moose, elk and mountain goats jumped effortlessly around the rocks. We built a fire, roasted marshmallows, and feel asleep under the stars. Color me impressed.

Eat
Take a shower at the Aspen Recreation Center (they offer day passes for a reasonable rate), then book it to town for happy hour at Aspen Brewing Company, followed by dinner at Grateful Deli—it looks like the parking lot at a Grateful Dead show and is cheap enough that even cash-strapped campers can afford it.

Sleep
Maroon Creek Campground has a bunch of primitive camping sites, but we liked Silver Queen Campground. It was the cleanest campground we’ve ever stayed at, with a graded gravel area for your tent, picnic table, and a fire pit surrounded by benches.

Do
Hike Crater Lake trail back into the wilderness area, and go for a mountain bike ride on Governor’s Trail—you’ll find it around back of the Rec Center. Also, if you’re coming from the East, you’ll mostly likely come through Independence Pass, a high-elevation road that’s one of the wildest drives I’ve ever taken. Stop at the top to watch skiers score some summer runs, and put on some snow pants to soak up the views.

See
Maroon Bells! During the summer, there are no cars allowed due to the crowds, but if you take a shuttle from the Aspen area, you’ll get dropped off right at the lake area. Pack a lunch and plan on sticking around.

Pack
Dress in layers so you can regulate your body temperature and still look cute for happy hour. My Aspen wish list includes the Bloom Jacket, Dekker Pants, and the Transfer tank top (don’t forget a hat and hiking shoes!).

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