In a state that’s chock-full of mesmerizing mountain ranges and superlative vistas, it might seem ambitious to name one hike the best—yet this is unquestionably it. The 26-mile Four-Pass Loop begins at Maroon Lake and its postcard views of the Maroon Bells (the most-photographed peaks in North America, according to the U.S. Forest Service). From there, it spans vast wildflower meadows, tops four passes (each higher than 12,400 feet), and circumnavigates the iconic pyramidal peaks, all the while serving up staggeringly perfect alpine panoramas. Even bad weather didn’t mar Michael Lanza’s trek: On this route, an hour of cloudless views is worth a week of sunshine anywhere else.
Do it From Maroon Lake, hike west two miles to Crater Lake, then follow the West Maroon Creek Trail over West Maroon Pass. Descend to the North Fork Fravert Basin Trail, and connect the North Fork Cutoff, Geneva Lake, and Maroon-Snowmass Trails to complete the loop.
Resources Driving From Aspen, take Maroon Creek Rd. nine miles to the overnight parking lot ($10). From mid-June to Labor Day (and on weekends through September), Maroon Creek Rd. is closed to private vehicles from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Take the shuttle ($6, 970-925-8484) from Aspen Highlands Village.
Map Trails Illustrated Maroon Bells Redstone Marble ($12, natgeomaps.com)
Permit Required (free at trailhead kiosk)
Contact (970) 925-3445; fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver