Much has been written about this 26 mile stunning hiking loop with very good reason so I won’t bore you with all of the logistical details. That information can be found on numerous other websites. What I want to share are some reasons why this hike merits honeymoon and / or bucket list status. See 50 Places to Hike Before you Die by Chris Santella.
Our plans were to hike this loop over Labor Day and to spend 3 nights doing so. I know, I know it can be done by ultra-runners in a day but we wanted the opportunity to soak in all of the scenery and solitude. I would highly recommend the Labor Day timeframe. We had beautiful weather with a proverbial afternoon shower here and there. In true Colorado style, the storms left as soon as they came. You do have to time your hiking with these showers as there are vast expanses of exposed, treeless basins where you don’t want to be when it’s storming.
So, what did I love about this trip? Where should I begin. If you like to challenge yourself and work on your fitness, this route will do it for you. You cross four passes that will definitely get your ticker pumping and lungs burning. They are all higher than 12,000 feet with steep ascents and descents out of the wetland meadows below. In fact, except for the beginning and the very end, the loop never descends below 10,000 feet.
I love exercise as much as the next person but that wouldn’t be enough for this trip to merit the bucket list ranking if it didn’t have stunning scenery to complement the physical challenge. From the very start of the trek, you are treated with iconic imagery starting with the Maroon Bells and Crater Lake. Don’t be deterred by the number of people visiting this landmark. Once you head out towards West Maroon Pass you quickly leave people behind and, once you go up and over this first pass, the crowd thins out to almost nothing …. if not nothing. In fact, once we got over West Maroon until we descended Buckskin (the final pass), we saw only 2 other people the entire time. This route routinely gets rated one of the most scenic routes in Colorado for a reason. The views of the Maroon Bells and the rest of the Elk Mountains are breath-taking. The route takes you all the way around the Bells and Elk Mountains for virtually a 360 degree view of the rugged peaks. After each pass you descend into beautiful, lush, green wetland basins with excellent camping locations. The rugged beauty of Snowmass Lake was an unexpected jewel of this hike.
Another unexpected treat was the greeting we got from a family of mountain goats as we reached the top of Buckskin Pass. We were privileged enough to see these guys, even the baby, successfully navigate a steep snowfield.
The effort this trek requires is so worth every step. It is heart-warming to know that there is still such peace, solitude, and unspoiled beauty out there if you just go beyond the beaten path.
Yes, I think our marriage is stronger for having shared such a great honeymoon adventure with loved ones.