Overnight campers in the busiest areas of the spectacular Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness will be required to have special recreation permits beginning next year.
The U.S. Forest Service is imposing the permit requirement in response to explosive visitation growth that has resulted in the accumulation of trash, human waste and other troubling impacts including environmental damage and visitor conflicts. It will apply to 28% of the land in the wilderness and will have no effect on visitors to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, a picture-postcard destination for sightseers that is not part of the adjacent wilderness area.
Permits from May 1 through Oct. 31 will cost $10 per person, plus a $6 processing fee. The rest of the year, users will only have to pay the $6 processing fee.
Overnight visitation in the wilderness has quadrupled since 2006. The forest service solicited public input last year regarding its plan to address the problem and dropped its initial proposal on the fee from $12.
“We have been hearing loud and clear that the public wants us to keep this area a premier backcountry destination by getting a handle on this over-use and environmental damage,” Aspen-Sopris district ranger Kevin Warner said in a news release. “This overnight permit and fee program is critical to giving us the resources we need to effectively manage, restore and protect this cherished area.”
Areas where the overnight permit will be required include the Conundrum Hot Springs, Geneva Lake, Capitol Lake and the “Four-Pass Loop” including Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake. Permits will be available beginning in February at recreation.gov.
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