Crater Lake

The quintessential Aspen hike, short mileage and big views of the infamous Maroon Bells.

Hiking Easy

Distance
5.8 km
Ascent
210 m
Descent
210 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
2.9 km
High Point
3.1 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Crater Lake Map

Description

Crater is located just under 2 miles from the Maroon Lake parking lot in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The lake was formed as glaciers in the valley retreated and left flat, open spaces where water collected in a process known as glacial benching.

One of the first things you will notice is the unique greenish blue color of both Maroon and Crater lakes. This coloring is due to notably high nutrient levels, which contributes to algae growth. Trout are abundant due to natural breeding as well as stocking by the forest service. Expect to find Brook, rainbow and brown trout and the occasional Colorado Cutthroat.

This hike is short in mileage but still gives massive views of the surrounding elk mountains including the Maroon Bells. This hike is ideal for families or those with limited time or fitness levels.

The Maroon Snowmass Trail begins on the right side of Maroon Lake to the Scenic Loop split. It continues above the wetlands area on your left into thick aspens that open to an open rock field surrounded by talus and scree.

Make your way through the talus back into the aspens, where it crests and drops to the West Maroon Creek Trail. Head left to Crater Lake.

The West Maroon Creek Trail levels around the north shore to the open outlet area before steepening up-valley. This wide area is cut by lazy oxbows of West Maroon Creek, and is worth exploring. The trail continues on to West Maroon Pass, part of the venerable 4-Pass Loop and most popular thru-hike route to Crested Butte.

Difficulty

Easy

Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area