This out-and-back ride begins at 8,000 feet in Aspen and climbs a moderate 10 miles to a gorgeous lake at the base of the iconic Maroon Bells.
Time To Complete
The ride can be done as a lunch loop or a quick after-work pedal, but if you've got the time, it's worth stretching it out by stopping at the top, walking down to the lake, snapping a couple pictures and taking in the views.
With curvaceous mountain climbs, high-alpine passes, languid valleys and eye-popping views of peaks and wildflowers, Aspen is a Mecca for road cyclists. The only drawback: having to share the road with the busy tourist traffic of oversized RVs, impatient speedsters and distracted lookiloos. Maroon Bells is a notable exception: due to summertime vehicular restrictions, Maroon Creek Road is largely free of traffic during daytime hours. That fact, coupled with the destination of a gorgeous alpine lake that affords one of the state's most iconic views of mountains, makes Maroon Bells a stellar ride.
What Makes It Great
For the majority of Colorado road rides, cyclists are forced to share the road with a steady stream of vehicles. So it's a refreshing break to ride Maroon Creek Road during summer daytime hours, when only paying vehicles and tourist shuttles are allowed to drive to the scenic Maroon Lake. The road climbs a moderate slope and winds through pine-shaded roads, rustling aspen groves and up long valleys. And mostly, traffic is in the form of fellow cyclists.
Cyclists are rewarded handsomely for the climb: The road ends at Maroon Lake, a beautiful high-alpine lake of clear green waters rimmed by wildflowers and craggy peaks. Cyclists should definitely heed the urge to step off the bike and walk down to the lake, which would also make a great spot for a picnic. With wide-open views of the much-photographed Maroon Bells, it's more than worth it. Turns out, the mountains are even prettier in person than in all the photos you've seen.
After drinking in the views, cyclists are treated to a speedy descent back down the road, where the valley eventually opens up and spits riders back into Aspen.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who enjoys a not-too-strenuous pedal through gorgeous mountain country on road that is basically empty of cars. In other words: This ride is great for everyone. The only exception would be super-fit cyclists who are seeking a grueling workout. Those riders should head to Independence Pass instead. For most other riders, however, Maroon Bells can be whatever you make it: A quick workout or a stretched-out afternoon picnic destination.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Aspen, get on Main Street and head west on Highway 82 like you are cycling out of town toward Basalt. Turn right onto N. 7th, then take a quick left turn onto Highway 82/W. Hallam Street. Follow this road to the roundabout, where you will take the second exit onto Maroon Creek Road. The road continues 9.5 miles, past the recreation center, farmlands and through valleys as it climbs. It will end at Maroon Lake. Return the same way.