It is 21 degrees and snowing in Winter Park, Colorado, and I'm already dreaming of warmer days and summer hikes. One of my favorite places in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, especially the walk from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake. The easy 2.2 mile trail (one way) provides stunning scenery and beautiful vistas, and leads from one beautiful lake to another. I should note here I've never made this hike during the day. All my visits have started before sunrise or in the late evening. I chose these times because the light is better for photography, and I like to avoid the crowds.
I usually find myself at Maroon Lake early - like when it is still dark - and photograph the light is it slowly spreads across the valley and illuminates the famous and iconic summits of Maroon and North Maroon Peaks.
From there, I'll make my way up the gentle uphill path, stopping to shoot wildflowers, especially Columbine and paintbrush, along the way, as well as capturing the stunning light as it shines through dense and green aspen forests.
These tall trees are pristine in this area, and you'll find yourself immersed in the best of Colorado as the leaves sway gently in the morning breeze.
Further up the trail, the rocky path leads onward to Crater Lake. Just before reaching the lake, more Columbine often line the trail and rocky slopes, making for a stunning entrance into the water's edge.
From Crater Lake's shore on a still morning, refections of the iconic 14ers summit can be seen in the shimmering and cold water.
After time spent here, the trails surrounding the lake are great for exploring. One path leads up to Maroon Pass and over the mountains to Crested Butte. I'll usually start back as the sun is shimmering over the ridge, often stopping to photograph the aspen again while keeping a lookout for local moose that roam the area.
So on this icy morning in the Fraser Valley, I find myself drifting back to one of my favorite areas where sunshine and wildflowers are abundant and aspen leaves dance in the breeze in the shadow of the Maroon Bells.