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Maroon Bells, White River National Forest, Colorado
Information about Maroon Bells, White River National Forest, ColoradoThe Maroon Bells is a mountain in the Elk Mountains that consists of two peaks, South Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, separated by about a third of a mile. The mountain is on the border between Pitkin County and Gunnison County, Colorado, United States, about 12 miles southwest of Aspen. Both peaks are counted as fourteeners. Maroon Peak, at 14,156 feet, is the 27th highest peak in Colorado; North Maroon Peak, at 14,014 feet, is the 50th highest. The view of the Maroon Bells to the southwest from the Maroon Creek valley is one of the most famous scenes in Colorado, and is reputed to be the "most-photographed spot in Colorado" and one of Colorado's premier scenic overlooks.
A US Forest Service sign on the access trail refers to these mountains as "The Deadly Bells" and warns would-be climbers of "downsloping, loose, rotten and unstable" rock that "kills without warning". Unlike other mountains in the Rockies that are composed of granite and limestone, the Bells are composed of metamorphic sedimentary mudstone that has hardened into rock over millions of years. Mudstone is weak and fractures readily, giving rise to dangerously loose rock along almost any route. The mudstone is responsible for the Bells' distinctive maroon color. The Bells got their "deadly" name in 1965 (48 years ago) when eight people died in five separate accidents.
Maroon Lake (9,580') provides one of the most memorable scenes in the Rockies. The lake occupies a basin that was sculpted by Ice-Age glaciers and later dammed by landslide and rockfall debris from the steep slopes above the valley floor.
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