Climb North Maroon Peak

Rate this Adventure Colorado Maroon-Snowmass (Willow Lake) Trail

Added by Kyle Frost

  • Climb one of the iconic Maroon Bells via the standard NE ridge route
  • 4500ft of elevation gain
  • 9.25 miles roundtrip
  • Mostly Class III with one solid Class IV section

Start your hike at the parking lot/trailhead at the end of Maroon Creek Rd. Keep in mind that the road is closed from about 9am-8pm to traffic and is only accessible by shuttle bus during that time. You'll be wanting to get a very early start anyways, so it shouldn't be an issue.

Your path begins at Maroon Lake, where you can see you destination looming above you in the distance. You'll take the West Maroon trail for a bit towards Crater Lake, and then take a junction to the right on the Maroon-Snowmass Trail. After about 3/4 of a mile, you'll see a trail cutting off to the left; take this trail down to a creek crossing, after which you'll make your way across a large talus field.

This is where it starts getting fun. Cross the talus and look for cairns that will lead you around the corner of the cliffs to the base of the first gully. You'll climb up the gully, following cairns along the way or making your own way upward. About 800ft up you can traverse to the left of the gully around another corner to the second gully at about 12,600ft.

Continue up the second gully to the top of the ridgeline at 13,200ft. Follow cairns up a series of ledges with decent exposure. There is a solid Class IV chimney that is the crux of the route. Some people choose rappel this section on the way down. At the top of the chimney, head right and up to continue up mostly Class III scrambling the remaining 300ish ft to the summit.

An excellent step-by-step description of the route can be found on

Pack List

  • Bring a helmet. This is important, the Elk Range is known for it's unstable, loose rock, and the two gullies are prime territory for rockfall.
  • Food/water/clothes. Plan for a 9+ hour day, depending on your fitness level. Be prepared for wind and cold weather.
  • Start early. This route requires some time for route-finding in places and the Bells are not a place you want to be if weather develops in the afternoon. People die here every year.
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Hiking, Rock Climbing

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



9.25 Miles

Elev. Gain:

4500 Feet



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Added by Kyle Frost

Designer and Adventure Photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. Fan of mountains, coffee, beer, and witty banter. Available for commissions and collaborations. I'm @kylefrost pretty much everywhere.

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