Maroon Bells Lake is a beautiful sight at any time of day, but it’s particularly memorable if you can make it to see the sunrise or sunset. With that said, if you have this destination in mind, there are a few rookie mistakes you’ll want to avoid to ensure you don’t miss your chance at witnessing this gorgeous natural wonder.
Tip #1: Best time to visit?
Mid-July to late September is often considered the best time to visit, but each time of year has a distinct look.
Tip #2: Plan For The Season
There is nothing like the high altitude fresh air seasoned with wildflowers and trees, but it can be very cold at night and during the morning. The weather changes constantly and, throughout the year, you’ll want to come prepared for the different seasons.
Late April and through May, Maroon Bells is enjoying its springtime. That means the water level is high thanks to recent snowmelt and the aspens are sprouting brand new leaves. Most wildflowers and other plant life are only beginning to turn green.
In Spring, Sunrise is typically somewhere between 6:00-6:30 AM and Sunset is typically between 7:30-8:00 PM.
During summer, the streams are flowing all around and the wildflowers are in full bloom. It’s a warmer time to visit Maroon Bells Lake and definitely not a sight that will disappoint, but as summer winds to a close, expect to see more tourists walking about.
During Summer, Sunrise is typically somewhere between 5:30-6:00 AM and Sunset is typically between 8:15-9:00 PM.
Fall is, by far, the busiest time of the year for Maroon Bells. That’s because the aspens begin to rapidly change colors, with green fading to gold in a gorgeous display by mother nature. If you wait too long, you can easily miss the gold leaves and arrive to find bare trees.
In Fall, Sunrise is typically somewhere between 7:00-7:30 AM and Sunset is typically between 6:00-7:00 PM.
While bare trees may not be your ideal way to view Maroon Bells, it’s still a great destination to set your sights on if you happen to be in the area come wintertime. With that said, a hike out here in the morning or evening is not for the weak. The winter is harsh, but if you go through the trouble, you’ll find that the fresh snow adds a whole new element of beauty to your experience. Plus, with the roads closing for the winter, you’ll get to rent a snowmobile and make out on a fun adventure.
In Winter, Sunrise is typically between 7:00-7:30 AM and Sunset is typically between 5:00-6:00 PM.
Tip #3: Where to watch? (And how to get there!)
The iconic spot often photographed is right off the Bells bus stop near the Forest Service Visitors Center. Additionally, before 8 am and after 5 pm and when the road is open, you can drive to Maroon Bells Lake itself for $10.
Tip #4: Anticipate Crowds
Arrive at least an hour before the sunrise or sunset to ensure you get a great view. Expect many others to be there on any given day, too. In the fall season, aim for 2-3 hours earlier to ensure you can find parking at the Maroon Bells . If you want a more serene setting, winter is the quietest time to visit.
Tip #5: The sunrise is ideal for photographs (or Instagram!)
Sunrise is the best time to photograph Maroon Bells because the sun will come from right behind you, with the light hitting the mountain top in the distance. If you have time, consider sticking around for at least 2 hours after the sunrise too so that you can see Maroon Bells Lake in full light.
Tip #6: Go at sunset to avoid tripods and a better overall experience
If you’re not photographing your visit and you’re just going for your own experience, you may want to head out during late afternoon and plan on catching the sunset. While plenty of people will still be out, most photographers know that with the sun in front of you, this is a tough time to try and get a good picture.
With these tips, you’ll easily be able to plan a surreal visit to Maroon Bells that you won’t soon forget. Time things right, go early, and you won’t be disappointed!