During peak time, you must park your car in the parking area and take the bus up to Maroon Bells...I was there midweek in late September and was able to drive up. The fee for driving in is $10, but I had the America the Beautiful National Park / Recreation Pass so I didn't have to pay. The drive up to the parking lot was pretty, with the Aspens changing - even with it drizzling. I was happy to be driving slow at the speed limit to take it all in. The parking lot was quite full, I found a spot, but they had rangers telling people where to park to make the most of the room. There are also two sets of restroom facilities.
|Maroon Lake & Maroon Bells|
|Start of the trail|
You will reach a clearing that overlooks the lake from the opposite side. Many people only hiked to this area and did not continue up to crater lake. The view was beautiful from this angle too.
|Trail gets rocky|
Crater Lake was pretty. It started to hail. I spent maybe 10 minutes resting, had a quick snack and taking pictures of other people.
When I got back to the Maroon Bells viewing area, it really cleared out....and it was also much more foggy and cloudy that the few pictures I took - I realized where much worse than earlier - with the top half barely visible.
I had my tripod in the car...I could have spent the time taking nicer pictures at the beginning...but I didn't want to carry it up the hike...and I am glad I didn't because my round trip hike was 3.6 miles round trip, gaining about 500 feet elevation (it seemed like more!). Carrying water, a few jackets, 2 cameras and a few snacks was plenty for me. And I did change my jackets a few times because the weather changed so quickly.