Scenic trail to Maroon Bells peaks, about 12 miles southwest of Aspen

This travel was absolutely spontaneous. Three weeks ago, on Friday, September 4th, I had a plan to leave a hot and loud city for the weekend and came across a cool online application Google Flights, where you can see real-time flight prices on the world map. I’ve never been on the West coast before and I was eager to learn something new by travelling. I booked a surprisingly cheap flight to Denver next morning and I had good enough and only reason for that — I found mountains on the map there.

The only thing that I knew about Colorado was that some of my friends finished a high school in one of the Denver suburbs. I stumbled across a listing with 20 places to visit and marked some of them on the map: Flatirons in Chautauqua Park, Boulder (pin 2), Hanging Lake (pin 5) and Maroon Bells Lake (pin 7).

Highlights on the route: 1.Denver International Airport; 2.Flatirons, Chautauqua Park, Boulder; 3.Denver City, capital of Colorado; 4.Transfer trail, Glenwood Springs; 5.Glenwood Canyon and Hanging Lake; 6.Aspen; 7.Maroon Bells Lake; 8.Independent Pass. Map data: ©2015 Google

Saturday, September, 5th, 11:00 am — I took a direct bus from the airport to Boulder, where park with Flatirons was located. I planned to walk for a couple of hours and try to hitchhike on the 70th highway after that to get to Glenwood Springs area before dark.

I hiked up to Royal Arch rocks through a beautiful pine forest. The Flatirons are 5 large rock formations made from sandstone and it was the best place at them.

The Flatirons are rock formations of conglomeratic sandstone

When I walked out of the park it was too late to hitchhike and I decided to go to Denver and find a bus that goes to mountains to have a dinner. Turned out there was no fast option to go to Glenwood Springs and I took an overnight bus. Having to wait for a bus, I walked through the empty streets of Downtown and was surprised not to find anybody out on a Saturday night. Turned out everybody went to the Coors Field to see Rocks baseball match. I got the cheapest $20 tickets and joined the rest of the folks. The arena there was overcrowded. I asked my neighbours about baseball rules and even watched online baseball lessons on youtube. It was boring even to try to understand the rules and I decided to walk and find something different to occupy myself with.

Fans on Coors Field

Sunday, September, 6th, 4:00 am — I woke up on the bus at some gas station. It was Glenwood Springs and I had to take off. The phone that was finally charged showed me the temperature outside — just 8°C (47°F). I changed my shorts to pants, put on a sweater and jacket. It was still dark outside. I got a coffee at the gas station and decided to hike up to the hill with a great panorama of sunrise. I took a dark road up and tried to tame my new fear — wild animals. I saw a beautiful panorama at the dawn. Right under my feet there was a great Glenwood Canyon with flowing Colorado river and I-70 highway.

My hitchhiking adventure started from that highway. It’s illegal to walk on a highway and I tried my luck at one of the exits. “Thumb up” didn’t work at all, so I took a page from my sketchbook and wrote “Hanging Lake”, the name of the place, where I was heading to. I got lucky in a couple minutes and met Joe, the driver, who gave me a lift for 12 km (7 miles) heading east. His car was messy, with empty steel cans and dirty work pants. Joe was a musician and told me about how he used to play with his rock-band in the 90s in Europe and the US. He does home renovations these days and was heading to work that day. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the name of his band.

Highway Interstate-70

True to its name, Hanging Lake is tucked away on a high ledge in a narrow canyon. Surrounded by waterfalls it looked like oversaturated chinese wallpaper in real life.

If you want to get there, you should hike up for a couple of miles along the river and waterfalls. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

When you look at the map and plan your travel, it seems pretty simple: hike the hill here and there, hitchhike, then walk a little while. In turned out, that each sight takes half a day and you don’t want to run anywhere anymore, but just to sit, relax and enjoy the nature.

I stopped the next car relatively soon and the driver was heading to Aspen, where I was going too.

Road to Aspen

I had no idea what Aspen meant at that time, except for the fact, that it was the easiest access to the Maroon Bells. The driver, David, who works as a ski instructor told me that Aspen is similar to the French Courchevel with boutiques, expensive hotels and billionaires. There was an open-air festival that night with headliners like Lenny Kravitz and a famous U.S. pop-rock band Fray. So, first thing that I saw, when I got out of the car was a square with lots of jewelry boutiques and men in tuxedos walking from mountain gondolas. Seemed like super-expensive place and I didn’t book a night to stay anywhere. I decided to go to the festival and climbed on the hill, from where I could see the stage and listen to the music without buying a ticket. I made a decision to wait for the to go down for last-minute reservations. I wasn’t by myself there — some locals had wine and food there at a picnic.

I wasn’t going to pay more than the cost of my flight tickets just for one night stay, besides I planned to walk to the Maroon Bells lake on the sunrise. Eventually I got lucky again — I booked one non-expensive single room in a small hotel there.

Maroon Creek Trail

The next morning was even colder than the one before that. It was raining and too cloudy to take pictures of the sunrise. So I decided to take a bus to the Lake. I was the only passenger on that bus and there was a audio guide playing there during the ride. Maroon Bells is a fantastic place and it looks very pure and wild. There are two picturesque peaks and a lake, that reflects them.

Maroon Bells Lake and peaks covered by rain clouds
Aspen Mountain

I hitchhiked to get to Denver that day, because I had a flight back next morning. We drove past the highest peaks in Colorado, which are called fourteeners (over the 14 000 feet or 4 270 m). The road, that was called Independent Pass, was one of the most scenic roads I’d ever travelled. That’s how I would imagine wild Alaskan landscapes.

Independent Pass
Mountain Boy Gulch

The sun out and behind the clouds every 5 minutes and the weather was constantly changing. I saw a beautiful rainbow in a shape of an arch above the road. Everyone shared their story on the road. Sam smoked weed while driving car, which is legal in Colorado. He told me about a rancho that he owned with 8 horses on a vast field under the Elbert peak.

Sam drives the Chevy pickup on the road to Leadville
I saw three rainbows in that day

I hiked up to 6 hills during that 3 day trip to Colorado, rocks and mountains, drove for 965 km (600 miles). I had a feeling of being a tiny grain of sand among those snow peaks and colorful fall trees. That was a good place to take time and think and clarify for myself my goals and direction in life.

All pictures were taken with Iphone 6 camera. Follow me on Instagram to see more.