Maroon Pass

By Courtney Essary Messenbaugh

At the height of summer, when the snow has (mostly) melted and the wildflowers are exploding in the high country, you can embark on a breathtaking 10-mile hike along Maroon Pass from Crested Butte to Aspen (or the reverse). 

Yes, you’ll rise with the sun and must push yourself physically and mentally in order to tackle a vertical gain of around 3,000 feet over the course of almost a full day of trekking, but it’s worth every ounce of effort you expend. 

Making your way through the lush green grass, spotting the delicate lavender and white of a wild columbine (Colorado’s state flower) and basking in the high country’s gentle summer sun recall the halcyon days of childhood summers when you had nothing to do but enjoy the great outdoors. 

Photo by Kat Smith.

During your hike, you’ll pass decaying cabins from the mining days of old and traipse along the crystal streams of summer snow melt. You’ll also be awed by the towering presence of the famous Maroon Bells, each of which stands over 14,000 feet high and gives palpable meaning to the words “purple mountain majesty.” 

As you drop down onto the Aspen side of the pass, the glittering Maroon Lake calls you to shed your boots to feel the icy water on your aching feet for a moment. Once done, head into town to kick your feet up at any of the many local watering holes and raise a glass to yourself and the splendor of nature.