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Trips : Colorado : Maroon Bells Wilderness Area

People tell me that the Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in the world. I don't know if that's true or not, but they certainly are pretty. They are located a few miles outside of Aspen, Colorado. Because of the impact of people on the wilderness, you have to park in Aspen and take a bus in to the hiking area. It's either that or get up really early and beat everyone else there.

The valley is filled with evergreens and aspen. In the fall, if the aspen hit "good color" you will certainly be sharing the area with a lot of other folks. If the color is not quite as good, well, it's still a popular area for hiking.

"Sunrise on Maroon Lake"
Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, Colorado

With the high mountains on either side of the valley, you have to wait until later in the morning to get good light for photography. The picture to the right was taken after the sun was high enough to light up the mountains but before it was high enough to shine down in to the valley.

While the light was not necessarily the best, the lake was almost entirely calm. Later in the day (see below) the winds were up. For this moment, it was almost a perfect mirror.

"Maroon Lake"
Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, Colorado
Big Picture

Maroon Lake is all that remains of the glacier that carved this valley. If you are ever hiking or driving in the mountains, keep your eyes open looking at the shape of a valley. If it is V-shaped, it was probably carved by a river. If it is U-shaped then it probably had a glacier in its past.

If you look back up at the first picture, you can easily see the U-shaped shadow of the valley.

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"Sun Behind the Aspen"
Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, Colorado
Big Picture

After taking a few pictures using Maroon Lake as a mirror, we hiked further back in to the woods. In the fall, the aspen leaves are often quite amazing. Unfortunately, the quality of the aspen depends on moisture and cold, so some years are better than others.

One of the rules that beginning photographers are often taught is "Never put the sun in your picture." Well, like any other rule of photography, it really should only be a suggestion. The picture to the side is an example.

The sun behind the aspen shines through the golden leaves, providing an interesting glow that would otherwise not be possible.

"Maroon Bells"
Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, Colorado
Big Picture

Mountains are high! Just ask anyone from Texas that has tried to hike in them... The Maroon Bells are "fourteeners", that is, mountains that are over 14,000 feet in elevation. On this particular morning there were wispy clouds blowing across the face of the mountains, giving them an interesting look.

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"Snow on the Maroon Bells"
Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, Colorado
Big Picture

Each time I have been to the Bells it has been in the fall. Sometimes the aspen have better color than others. Sometimes the weather is wetter than others. But the mountains are always there.

This picture is from a different trip where there was more snow on the mountains and less gold on the aspen. It's obvious what I decided to take a picture of here...

The state of Colorado has so much to offer. This tour of the Maroon Bells area is just a taste. If you would like, you can return to the Colorado page and take a different look at the state. For a totally different look, I would like to suggest a tour of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, which is located in the southwest area of the state.

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