Crater Lake Trail

MODERATE 472 reviews

Crater Lake Trail is a 3.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Aspen, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
3.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
688 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

backpacking

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

trail running

walking

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

Directions from Aspen: From mid-June through September the Maroon Creek road is closed from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., you will need to take a shuttle. You can catch the shuttle from Rubey Park on Durant Street in Aspen. There is a fee for the Maroon Creek Shuttle.If you get an early start, drive 1/2 mile west of Aspen on Highway 82 and turn left at the roundabout onto Maroon Creek Road. Keep right and continue 9-1/2 miles to the Maroon Lake parking area.

hiking
4 days ago

We were told by the bus driver that Crater Lake was a lot more dried up this year, and that was completely obvious once we saw the lake. I’m sure it would have been a lot more attractive if the water were higher. But pretty views throughout the hike! Saw a ton of families, so should be doable for most kiddos. And if you have a dog, they’ll probably enjoy cooling off in the lake at the top.

I’m physically active so I thought the trail itself was mostly easy, but we flew in from GA ~18 hours before the hike and I definitely felt some negative affects of the altitude adjustment. If you’re not used to high altitudes, bring plenty of water and remember to take deep breaths.

7 days ago

The hike is great, lake is underwhelming. Views along the hike are awesome.

hiking
7 days ago

For those of us not used to the altitude (we are from GA) this was a pretty difficult hike on the way to Crater Lake. Mostly uphill and very rocky. Took about an hour hike to get to Crater Lake but the view was gorgeous! Plan on packing a lunch or snacks and taking in the view—and a short rest! Definitely want to get there early as it gets very crowded on the narrow, rocky trail as the day progresses. We got to Highlands at about 8:15 to take the bus up to Maroon Bells. Go early—very popular destination! Bring lots of water too.

hiking
9 days ago

I found the low level of the lake and the dirty water to be a little underwhelming. The view of the surrounding mountains is very nice, as is the aspen forest on the way in.

hiking
12 days ago

Go early to beat the crowds and dress in layers.

hiking
16 days ago

Amazing views at Maroon Lake (starting point) and at Crater Lake! I found this to be more easy to moderate...the moderate being due to the higher elevation and all the rocks. The rocks are no joke. I rolled my ankle a few times in hiking shoes...wished I had full on boots. There are really only a couple patches without rocks, so be prepared for that. We started around 11:45 on a Wednesday in July and it was still super busy. Come early to enjoy the peace and quiet. Took us about 2hrs round trip, plus about 30 minutes of lounging at Crater Lake.

18 days ago

This is one of my favorite hikes. The trail is a bit busy on weekends but worth it!! Kid and dog friendly but watch your footing because it gets a bit rocky!

20 days ago

Great hike and doable with young children. Bug spray is helpful walking through the woods. A lot of loose rocks along the path so tread carefully. If you’re planning to go on a weekend and want to avoid taking the bus, plan to arrive well before 8am. We reached around 7:50am and the lot was already full and closed.

hiking
20 days ago

Great trip! We got there at 5:45, parked, got our gear and hit Maroon lake about 6:15am. Stopped to take pictures then started our hike to Crater Lake. Very rocky, but so worth the trip. Got up to Crater Lake about 7:20am, sat around and watched a momma duck and her ducklings swim around the lake when some dips&*t had his dog unleashed. Dog went after the ducks, while owner laughed. A bunch of us started yelling at him and about 2-3 minutes later had the dog on a leash (sadly we ran into them about 2 miles up the trail past the lake and the dog was off leash again). Our hiking goal wasn’t to go much further, but we did venture up another mile and half.

We turned around and started back down. Got back to Crater Lake and took a break to see the bells in a later (11:00am) light. Started our trip back down and it was busier than Cherry Creek Mall at Christmas!! You can tell when the buses drop people off. About every 15 minutes there would be a new wave of tourists heading up to the lake with a camelback, no food, no protection, and their poodle (on leash) struggling to get up and over the rocks.

Got to our car and headed down the mountain. We hit 82 and started to head west and about a minute later got dumped on. Our thoughts were with all of those people hiking with nothing to protect them from the elements.

Would I do this again? Yes, during the week, after Labor Day, and at 5:30am.

hiking
24 days ago

Nice trail to get a look at the Bells and Pyramid from the bottom! Lots of biting flies-so remember your bug spray
Pleasant way to spend the morning.

hiking
24 days ago

Nice moderate hike. I didn’t know the road to West Portal was closed to public traffic from 8am-5pm. You pay to park at the Highlands. Buy a bus ticket $8 adults, $6 kids and take a bus up. We had a lovely singing bus driver who pointed out many nice features along the way. At the West portal bus drop off, water and restrooms available. The short walk to Maroon Lake had nice views. We started our hike to Crater Lake about 3:30. It took about an hour to get there. We hussled back to catch the last bus at 5:00 and missed it by 10 min. (Due to hiking with kids). My husband hitch a ride back down and drove back up to get us. After 5, pull up to the bus route to pick up where you were dropped off, or take the lower public parking down by the lake.
It was a long day since we hiked at the Grottos in the morning. Totally worth it!

hiking
25 days ago

CRATER LAKE/MAROON BELLS AREA. Late start arriving (230pm) put me on high alert to get back in time to catch last shuttle bus out! I pledged to turn around 330pm no matter what. Moving at a good pace with trekking poles for me in scree field where I could see lake from distance. I look at my quick photos I snapped and marvel at “this is not even enhanced!”

Would allow for more time! I was able to hoof it back, take time to put my feet in the icy waters of the lake/river and catch the 440pm bus.

An afternoon perfectly spent!

1 month ago

Great view at end, but very rock, uneven trail for 90% of the hike..

hiking
1 month ago

Well worth the hike. Once you have made it to Crater Lake, look for waterfalls way up on side of Mountain.

1 month ago

Very rocky with not a lot of scenery before the lake. But the lake is beautiful. I’ve done some moderate trials this trip so for my money, I’d just relax and enjoy the scenic loop instead and do a more worthwhile trail later. It was just not diverse enough for me. Too much scree.

hiking
1 month ago

Fantastic trail with gorgeous views. We did it wearing our 2 year old in a Deuter backpack, which was a must. The trail is really rocky in parts and would be difficult for young children. Definitely a heavily used trail, but well worth it!

1 month ago

Beautiful.

1 month ago

Beautiful view. Perfect amount of challenge and having to pay attention and beautiful and fun!

hiking
1 month ago

Another MUST SEE trail in Aspen!!!

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike. Be prepared for a rocky trail. Saw too many people in sandals, not a great idea! We hiked this on a holiday week, too many people! Next time we will do this on a non holiday week!
Overall it was still awesome, the views were amazing!

hiking
1 month ago

If you are from flat land and are scared to do this hike after reading some of the reviews, please ignore the reviews and DO THIS HIKE! I am from Chicago, 50 years old, and an OK hiker. The trail is Rocky and that altitude is definitely hard on the lungs, but if you go slow and take breaks and stay hydrated, it is totally doable! Absolutely stunning hike that is shaded by aspens in many places but every now and then a Mountain View pops up. The boulder field just before the lake can be challenging if you don’t have proper footwear and aren’t paying attention to your footing. But, again, totally navigable and there are plenty of people taking breaks along the way so no reason to feel rushed. Don’t miss this hike!

1 month ago

Relatively easy hike to a great view. Lake is big enough to spread out the crowd so you can always get your own spot on the shore!

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing views at Crater Lake, but not much scenery between Maroon and Crater as the trail climbs through thick forest. Worth it though!

1 month ago

Beautiful hike, not too difficult other than the incline, but lots of beautiful places to stop, rest, and enjoy the scenery along the way. There’s also a beautiful creek you can walk along that goes to an overlooking bridge. Certainly a must do hike while in Aspen!

hiking
1 month ago

beautiful and there are not much words to describe it.

1 month ago

Great trail just hard enough. Well marked.

1 month ago

Did this trail on Saturday and Maroon Bells is absolutely gorgeous. It was well worth the long drive from Denver. I kind of wish we went a little further past Crater Lake, but it was the most beautiful trails I’ve done so far. Definitely recommend

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

I hiked this with my six year old nephew on June 9, 2018. We took the shuttle, which was nice on the way up. On the way back, we had to wait, and it was hot with not much shade. However, the hike was amazing and totally worth it. We hiked about a half mile past Crater Lake, which was incredible because of waterfalls that could not been seen from Crater Lake. The trail itself was very rocky and a bit difficult, but totally worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

I did this gorgeous trail solo last weekend and it did not disappoint. Maroon Lake was crowded with a wedding/tourists but once I headed up the trail I had it (mostly) to myself. It’s narrow and rocky in most parts. There’s a good amount of shade which kept the temperature just right for a tank and shorts. My little dog even hiked most of it too! Definitely a trail we’d recommend. Pack water, an extra cell phone charger to ensure great pics and a wind breaker! The open air sections get breezy up at the top and it can be chilly.

Load More