Colorado 14ers – Saturday, American Lake

This morning we left Buena Vista, crossed the Continental Divide at 12,095 ft through Independence Pass and dropped down into the Roaring Fork Valley and Aspen.

Along the drive we stopped at Cascades and the Grotto.

Snow and springmelt carved these winding paths through the rock.

A bull moose finding breakfast.

Today’s hike took us to American Lake, part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, a 181,000 acre area of Elk Mountains that was preserved in 1980.

The hike gains 2,129ft over 3.1 miles, ascending through an aspen forest and into meadows.  Tee-shirt weather today… full sun and a light breeze with the last scents of summer from a warm pine forest.

Little pockets of aspens are changing and we’re maybe 2 weeks from a full fall color burst.

This trail puts almost all the effort at the beginning with switchbacks bringing all the elevation gain early.  Those little zigzags on the screenshot upper right went right up the slope.  The last 2 miles is a pleasant gentle rise in the tree line and crossing a talus field to arrive at the lake.

We walked around to the far side, spotting cutthroat trout along the way, and sat with this view for our afternoon lunch.

Back down we go…



Meal of the day: Lunch on American Lake.  A very close second was an excellent meal at The Goat.

Best thing today:  great company – thanks Lizzy and Ted for hosting us on a terrific tour that covered the whole Roaring Forks Valley.


2 thoughts on “Colorado 14ers – Saturday, American Lake”

  1. Hi,
    I am visiting Aspen/Vail on 21-22 Sep and then RMNP on 23-26.
    Can you please advise which 2 options shall I choose for hiking among American Lake/Maroon/Hanging Lake?
    Also at which location was that rocky picture (first 2 pics) taken?


    1. Hi Ranjeet, I really enjoyed American Lake, that would be my top recommendation… it was a beautiful hike starting out in aspen and ending at a great setting around the lake… great picnic spot. I don’t know Hanging Lake so can’t compare, so I’d have to select Maroon Bells as my second choice. Maroon Bells will be busy… bus route comes into the park and drops folks off in a parking lot which overlooks Maroon Lake. Many people will stay on the nature walk around that lake, you’ll want to hike up to Crater Lake. You have to enter the park to see the view of Maroon Bells which is very impressive… I can see why they say this is one of the most photographed sites in Colorado. During the peak of the season, I think the park service restricts private vehicles from driving to the trailhead… forcing you onto the bus. We arrived before 8AM, paid and could drive ourselves. Check with locals… perhaps this restriction has been lifted completely this time of year.

      The first two rocky pictures in “Saturday – American Lake” were taken south of Aspen, prior to going over Independence Pass… type the words “Grottos Trail” into Google Maps. They are called the “Ice Caves” Fun drive if you’re close to Aspen. There may be further hiking in that spot, but these caves are just a few hundred yards from the parking lot… sneakers will be just fine.


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