Pitkin County commissioners and U.S. Forest Service officials are working to develop plans to manage the crowds traveling to Maroon Bells.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority transported 2,000 people to the picturesque peaks on July 3. “And we were probably close to that on July 2, too,” said Kent Blackmer, co-director of operations for RFTA.
That popularity is prompting forest service officials to study both the affect of all those people for the long-term and provide another parking option this fall for the short-term when the massive leaf-peeping crowds descend.
The demand for service to Maroon Bells during September weekends when the leaves start changing is tremendous, Blackmer said.
“The Maroon Bells is becoming like the entrance to Disneyland,” Pitkin County Board Chairman George Newman said last week.
During normal summer days, RFTA provides five buses to shuttle people between Aspen Highlands and Maroon Lake, though this summer’s demand has forced the agency to add a sixth bus, Blackmer said. People cannot drive to the parking lot at Maroon Lake between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the summer.
When the leaves begin to change in September, RFTA more than doubles the number of buses heading up Maroon Creek Road to 13, he said.