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Hiking in Paradise - Crater Lake Trail
Trip Report

Hiking in Paradise - Crater Lake Trail

Hiking in Paradise - Crater Lake Trail

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 39.08527°N / 106.96754°W

Object Title: Hiking in Paradise - Crater Lake Trail

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 29, 2008

Activities: Hiking

Season: Summer


Page By: dwhike

Created/Edited: Jan 27, 2009 / Sep 21, 2009

Object ID: 483968

Hits: 8794 

Page Score: 83.69%  - 17 Votes 

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An Afternoon in Paradise...

The first day of our first trip to the Rockies. Where to hike? Where to hike? It had to be a good one, that was a given. It would set the mood for our whole week. At the same time it couldn't be too strenuous. With more lofty aspirations for later in the week (see "Realizing a Dream") we needed a decent short hike to get our lungs accustomed to the thinner air of the Colorado high country. Of all the dozens of "Top Trails" lists in Colorado one always seemed near the top...a hike up to a place called Crater Lake. This tiny pond of liquid turquoise, set against the towering triple pyramids of the Maroon Bells, creates a natural tapestry that possibly inspires more photographs than any other single place in the Colorado Rockies. Hmmm, maybe deciding our first hike in Colorado wouldn't be so hard after all...

The day dawned a crystal clear shade of blue only possible in high mountain air. It was a glorious welcome that we didn't intend to take for granted. We shuffled out of our hotel room at far too early an hour for vacation and set our sights on Aspen a couple hours away. I had no illusions that we would be alone on this hike. The Maroon Lake trailhead attracts so many visitors that the forest service closes the access road and forces visitors onto buses to maintain some kind of a quota. I was counting on the scenery to distract me.

The ride up was interesting to say the least. The scenery was amazing, a kind of subtle foreplay to get us ready for the big event. I was also surprised to discover we didn't have to scrape any cyclists out of our grill upon arrival. I don't follow the local papers but it would shock me if less than a couple hundred bikers end up as road kill as a result of the suicidal game of chicken they play with the buses every day.

Without incident we stepped of the bus, filled up our Camelbacks and took our first steps into paradise...

...Is Worth A Thousand Words...

Maroon Lake
Entering Paradise

Walking the first few steps down towards Maroon Lake was like stepping into a dream despite the crowds...

Burnt Mountain
Burnt Mountain

The red rocks of Burnt Mountain rose above us as we left the trailhead...

Maroon Lake - Trailside
Maroon Lake

The twin pyramids of South (left-14,156') and North (right-14,014') Maroon Peak were ever-present to the south as we hiked along Maroon Lake...

Tenacious Aspen
On the Trail

A skinny Aspen clings to the edge of the trail as we begin to climb...

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Before long we found ourselves entering the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness...

Aspen Grove

The Aspen forest in spring bloom was simply stunning...

Crater Lake Trail
Great So Far

For much of its length the trail ascended quite easily. The mountains above, the aspens glowing in the morning sun, and the brilliant blue skies were already combining to make this a hike to remember...

Crossing a Slide
A Slide

About halfway up we found ourselves crossing what looked to be a recent slide. It allowed for a nice view down into the gorge below...

Taking it in...

Taking time to take it in...needless to say we didn't make the greatest time on our way up...

Maroon Lake View
Maroon Lake Overlook

About halfway up to the boulder field the forest opens to offer this stunning view back to Maroon Lake. Highland Peak (12,382'), of the Aspen Highlands Ski Area rises in the distance...

Sievers Mountain
Sievers Mountain

The cliffs of Sievers Mountain to the west kept silent watch over us for the second half of the hike...

Indian Paintbrush
Indian Paintbrush

Here was a familiar flower from back home! The variety of wildflowers along the trail was a nice bonus as you'll se in the following pics...

Idiot Sign
Idiot Sign

Seriously, if I ever catch anyone of you doing this, I'll stab you with my hiking pole...

Crossing the Boulderfield

After a short but steep climb the trail drops into an ancient boulderfield and pines begin to dominate...

Slide Zone
Nature's Power

This area, beneath Sievers Mountain, must be a very active avalanche area in the winter. I was stunned by the evidence of nature's awesome power on display here...

Colorado Columbine

As we finished crossing the boulderfield we recieved our official welcome to Colorado in the form of these beautiful Colorado Columbine, Colorado's State Flower...

Crater Lake View
Again, Wow!

BOOM!! Completely hidden from sight until this point, the view here just hit me like a hammer, simply mindblowing...

Arriving @ Crater Lake
Down to the Lake

Descending now and once again amongst the aspen, the sign ahead marked our arrival at Crater Lake...

Pyramid Peak
Pyramid Peak

As we made our way down to the shore of Crater Lake, Pyramid Peak (14,018') took its opportunity to show off a bit...

Crater Lake
Sensory Overload

The 14,156 Maroon Bells dominated the southern horizon, rising some 4,000' directly out of the waters of Crater Lake...

The Bells
Why Maroon?

The Maroon Bells are so-called for the reddish rocks that make up their pyramidal summits. The color, more noticeable at sunset, is due to a type of rock called hematite which is high in iron. Needless to say we were perfectly content with their midday gray look...

Pyramid Peak & Crater Lake
The Neighbors

Not to be out done, Pyramid Peak rises from the opposite shore of Crater Lake. This to me seemed like a grumpy-looking peak, threatening at any moment to slide into the lake if one didn't pay attention...

The Perfect Lunch Spot
Lunch Break

This looked like as good a place as any for a lunch break...seriously, does it get any better?!

Top of the Boulderfield
Fond Farewell

Alas, all good things must come to an end. It was with great difficulty we tore ourselves away from our little bit of grass along the lake. All there was left to do was find a few nice wildflower shots on the descent...

Unknown Flower
Name This Flower

This first flower I have yet to identify specifically. Please share your wisdom if you know...

Possibly an Aster

Again, I am embarassed to admit, I am at a loss for a name here. I'm 99% sure they are a type of aster but if anyone could be more specific please share...

Fairy Slipper
Fairy Slipper

I nearly missed this little gem...the tiny, elusive Fairy Slipper (Calypso bulbosa)...a special find marking the finish of a breathtaking day on the trail.


Maroon Lake - TrailsideThe BellsCrater LakePyramid PeakThe Perfect Lunch SpotBurnt MountainPyramid Peak & Crater Lake
Crossing the BoulderfieldCrater Lake ViewMaroon Lake ViewTenacious AspenTaking it in...Top of the BoulderfieldPossibly an Aster
[ View Gallery - 13 More Images ]


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imontopBeautiful pictures!


Voted 10/10

Looks like it was a great trip.
Posted Jan 28, 2009 12:01 am

dwhikeRe: Beautiful pictures!


Hasn't voted

Thanks so much, gald you enjoyed. It was certainly a memorable hike.
Posted Jan 29, 2009 10:59 am

Viewing: 1-2 of 2