LoJ: #358 (Pre-LiDAR #365) / 13,350' UN 13350 Maroon Bells

Range › Elks Range
Quadrangle › Maroon Bells
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 07' 22.18", W 106° 58' 26.09" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

UN13,350 is a fairly typical Elk Mountain summit with something of a split personality in that the final push to the summit passes over both the typical maroon sedimentary rock of the Elks and then the whitish intrusive igneous rock seen on Capitol and Snowmass. The route we suggest utilizes trail for most of the distance with a final, off-trail 700 foot gain from a pass that rates a Class 2+. The Maroon Lake trailhead can be accessed by any passenger car. Lidar added 14 feet of elevation to this summit.

UN13,350 Southwest Ridge Route

Class 2+
Long Day // Back for Dinner
Climbed with UN 13015
RT From Maroon Lake TH: 12.4mi / 4,370'
  • Trailhead
    • Maroon Lake TH

      For quite a few years now, in order to regulate and reduce the vehicle traffic flow to Maroon Lake, the Forest Service has restricted vehicle traffic to Maroon Lake. Go to this link to search for detailed information: fs.usda.gov/whiteriver. At one time, generally speaking, you could drive a vehicle in before 9:00 AM or after 5:00 PM. Limited parking was available and you needed to arrive before 6:00 AM to obtain a spot. Nowadays, (2024), parking reservations must be obtained months in advance, which in our opinion is a great disadvantage for climbers. Without a reservation, you can only ride a shuttle from the Highlands parking lot. Check the White River NF website to confirm the most recent details and regulations for access. There is no camping at Maroon Lake.

      From State HWY 82 on the west side of Aspen, drive through the traffic circle south heading for the Aspen Highlands Ski area and Maroon Lake. This traffic circle is about 1 mile west of Aspen on HWY82 or 40 miles SE from Glenwood Springs, and after the airport and Aspen Business Center by the airport. The road number is CR13. The so-called "welcome station" is 4.7 miles south and that's where you must pay a vehicle use fee of $10. If attempting to drive in during restricted hours, you'll have to park at the Highlands Ski area and ride a free shuttle in. The trail to Crater Lake is what you need to locate at the SW end of the parking lot. The trail goes around Maroon Lake on the north and west side.


      Designated, fee campsites are available at the Silver Bar CG, the Silver Bell CG and the Silver Queen CG along CR13 as you drive in to Maroon Lake. These campgrounds are almost always occupied, especially on weekends. The White River National Forest website indicates that sites in these campgrounds can be reserved by calling 1-877-444-6777, but if that info is outdated, then the campsites will probably be available through ReserveAmerica. There is no at-large camping allowed anywhere else along the road to Maroon Lake. Technically, vehicle camping in the parking lot at Maroon Lake is also off limits, but still practiced discretely by many. Attempt at your own risk. The nearest other campground will be the Difficult Creek CG up HWY 82, about 4 miles east of town toward Independence Pass.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info UN13,350 Southwest Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2007

    All of the five 13er summits that we have placed in the Buckskin Pass Group can be accessed as a day-hike from the Maroon Lake TH. It is possible to also backpack up Minnehaha Creek and set up a base camp from which all five summits could easily be done in about two days. UN13,350 we have sequenced with UN13,015 for a fairly long day-hike from Maroon Lake.

    From the Maroon Lake parking area, head south on the Crater Lake trail #1975. Make sure you don't get diverted over onto the scenic Maroon Lake trail. Walk 1.5 miles to Crater Lake amid hordes of dayhikers, touroids, etc., unless you've gotten a good early start. View the "Deadly Bells" warning sign. If you're going to backpack in and camp overnight, you'll also need to self-register. At Crater Lake, turn west and head up Trail #1978 toward Buckskin Pass. This trail heads up Minnehaha Gulch and begins to gain some serious altitude shortly after Crater Lake. There are/were some backpacking campsites near the lake and the trail intersection. At about 11,100 ft., there are/were some excellent campsites on the ridge to the right above the trail if camping overnight. They are located a short distance before the trail crosses Minnehaha Creek at 11,060 ft. It's about 3 miles to this location. Be sure and check recent regulations regarding backcountry camping in this area in case a designated site system has been implemented.

    From where the trail crosses over Minnehahah Creek, continue a little farther toward Buckskin Pass, but watch for the trail intersection where you turn north to head over Willow Pass at 12,580 ft. Most all of the hiking above treeline is through tundra, but the final gain to the pass will be through the typical maroon sedimentary rock. On the north side of the pass, drop down on a few switchbacks into Willow Basin. The trail leads down to Willow Lake passing through a vast tundra basin dotted with maroon boulders and colorful orange lichen. Just below 12,000 feet in elevation, watch for a trail that heads off to the west. Follow this trail as it regains altitude to an unnamed pass that we will call East Snowmass Creek Pass. The trail passes through some of the white rock rubble that characterizes UN13,015 which will be just left of the trail as you head up to the pass. UN13,350 will be visible the entire time you're crossing Willow Basin. It has a distinct, split personality geologically, with half of the peak comprised of the maroon, metamorphosed sedimentary mudstone, and the whitish, intrusive granite.

    Once you gain the pass, you will be at a dividing line between the two major rock types. There is/was a post here to mark the trail as it heads down into East Snowmass Creek. In climbing 13ers, when given a choice, our rule was to always climb the highest summit first, so head north from the pass on soft maroon dirt and maroon rocks and scree.

    Follow mostly on the west side of the ridge staying below the crest most of the time. We found this to be the easiest path. There are some small cliff bands lower down to work through, but nothing difficult. Higher up, you leave behind the maroon rock and get onto the broken, boulder rubble of the whitish rock. It becomes mostly just slugging it out with minor obstacles at various places to search around and overcome until you arrive at the summit. Along the way and on the summit, you'll enjoy a panoramic view of the Snowmass Mtn. massif and Snowmass Lake to the west. Capitol Peak is also in view. From here on out, even if you go on over to UN13,015, you'll basically be working your way back to the beginning of the hike at Maroon Lake.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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