Maroon Bells Colorado Backpacking

After a week of backcountry paddling in the Boundary Waters canoe area, I was home for one day to catch up on laundry, work and bills, unpack, repack and head West to meet some of my backpacking friends in Colorado for a trip to the Maroon Bells.

We had been planning this trip, mostly over Facebook threads, since the beginning of the year.  The primary goal was to view the Rocky Mountain wildflowers at their peak, along with reasonable mileage and elevation gain, and a good spot for basecamping.  With that, we chose the Maroon Bells from the Crested Butte side.

We met at Deborah’s house in Aurora, CO early on a Sunday morning and caravan’d out to Crested Butte, where we had lunch at a little Thai restaurant and then headed up to the trailhead.  We were just on the back side of Scofield pass, which leads to Crystal and Marble, some of my favorite spots in Colorado!

Most trips start early in the morning, but we hit the trailhead around 2 in the afternoon!  The best thing about vacation is leaving schedules and watches behind, other than the fact that we were hitting the trail just as afternoon storms were building.

Getting ready to leave behind civilization for 5 days!

"Before" group shot - Leigh, Deborah, Nancy, Rob and Lina

Our basecamp for the week wasCopper Lake, about 5 miles in from the trailhead. Due to our late start, we decided to stop short and camp along the way.  We found a great campsite on a bluff above the river, and had nice background music of rushing water to lull us to sleep.

The next day, we arrived at Copper Lake, which is a beautiful alpine lake, situated right at treeline, with several established campsites.  This is apparently a popular stop on the way to Conundrum Hot Springs, so we did have hikers at the other campsites, but it was far from crowded.

Copper Lake is also situated near several trails, so we had some great options for dayhikes.  Many “hardcore” backpackers will do a loop where you pack up your tent every day and move sites, but I have to say, I’m a big fan of the basecamp trip, and this was the perfect location to come home to each night!

On our first dayhike, we traveled over East Maroon Pass, to East Maroon Creek.  We started off on a ledge trail up above Copper Lake and immediately found fields of gorgeous wildflowers.

Maroon Bells Backpacking

We got back to camp just as the late afternoon thunderstorms rolled in, perfect for a pre-dinner nap.

The next day, we hiked to the Triangle Pass trail.  This was the longest hike of the trip, and featured the most breathtaking scenery as well.

We made it up to Triangle Pass for a much needed break, then realized we had missed our turnoff and had to double back a bit.

View from Triangle Pass

We even did some off-trail hiking and I let Bailey off leash for the first time since there were no other hikers around to disturb.  She was pretty good and didn’t let me out of her sight!

Another great day of hiking, followed by dinner and conversation before we all passed out in our tents for the night.  The next day, we packed up and headed back to our cars to go our separate ways.   This was really a fantastic trip and I felt super lucky to also have Bailey with me!

Photo Credit:  Deborah C

Bailey and I were staying at the Holiday Inn in Frisco, to wash up and recuperate from our backcountry adventure.  On trips like this, I’m not too picky about hotels – dog friendly with laundry facilities will do it for me.  Room service was a bonus this time, too!  The next day, I had a short visit with family in Evergreen and then began the long drive back to Illinois.

Dog-Friendly Hotel

For all photos from this trip, click here!


Maroon Bells Pin

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