September 23-25, 2016
It's hard to beat a weekend in the mountains, especially when those mountains are the Maroon Bells and the weekend is the first real snow of the season.
After a stressful two or three weeks of school, I began planning another trip down to Aspen; we went last year and it was my favorite thing in Colorado we had done (up until this trip) so I was itching to go again. As we drove west on 70 we began seeing signs warning truckers that "winter is here" and that they are "required to carry chains" I was joking around with Logan, laughing about seeing those signs in SEPTEMBER, but lo and behold, we get through the tunnel before Breckenridge and are greeted with actual, tangible snow on the ground. I was so happy there were tears.
We made it into Aspen and I did a few happy dances in the falling snow and we checked into a beautiful mountain resort (pro tip: don't plan on a cheap hotel in aspen the weekend of the Aspen film festival. It's not going happen. Just book the expensive one and marvel at how beautiful everything is). We had a delicious breakfast and watched the snow continue to fall the next morning.
Unless you're dedicated enough to arrive before 7 am (and significantly earlier during peak color weekends), you're going to have to take a shuttle to get to the Bells. It's fine. It's a fun trip and the bus drivers have a lot of fun information to share. Just maybe shed some layers before you sit down, the bus is hot.
We got to the Bells and promptly went to the bathrooms to put on some waterproof layers, the snow was still coming down. It was cloudy and foggy and you could barely see the mountains, but I was so in love with everything about the day.
We were planning on hiking up to Crater Lake since I wasn't up all night vomiting this year, but I wasn't sure we'd go through with it. I wanted to see the Bells and was worried we might miss our window of clear sky if we hiked up, but decided to just go ahead and do it.
It was so worth it - the trail itself was beautiful, we walked through groves of aspen trees and had great views of Maroon Lake and all in all, it was beyond worth it.
Trailhead: Crater Lake trailhead - Maroon Bells
Distance: 3.6 miles (easy)
After trudging through the snow for a mile and a half, we made it to Crater Lake. I had to stop and put all of my layers back on because it was so windy and cold, but again, it made me so happy to be wearing a hat and gloves and a puffy jacket in SEPTEMBER!
I marveled at all of the tents set up and contemplated trying to get a backcountry permit for the night (snow + temperatures in the 20s kept my sanity in check, you're welcome Logan). We took tons of pictures and just generally enjoyed our time in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Plus, the clouds were starting to clear and we were getting great views of the mountains.
After freezing for about 45 minutes we decided it was time to head back down. The views were just as incredible on the way back and it was like triple the speed getting down than going up! (I don't know why, we're definitely acclimated, but something about hiking in Aspen is significantly harder than hiking in RMNP. Who knows)
We found a spot along the shore of Maroon Lake to eat our lunch (trusty uncrustables and apples, as per usual) and again sit in awe of this beautiful state we live in.