Road to Maroon Bells opens Friday for the season

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
A lone road biker descends toward Aspen from Maroon Bells in the springtime. Counties in the Colorado mountains score high for natural amenities like winter sunshine, cool summers and aesthetically pleasing topography.
Aspen Times file photo |

The Maroon Bells Scenic Area is set to open today at 9 a.m. to the public, as Pitkin County officials have cleared Maroon Creek Road and U.S. Forest Service officials are opening the gates.

The official opening is scheduled for Thursday, when the Forest Service will begin charging $10 per vehicle for access to the Bells. Until then, donations will be accepted at the welcome station, which will be unattended.

Peggy Jo Trish, Maroon Bells manager for the U.S. Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said the Silver Bell campground will be open to the public, as well. The self-service camping fee is $15 per night. Visitors will have access to the bathroom and drinking water at the Maroon Lake day-use area.

At this point, Trish said officials have not had the chance to hike to Crater Lake, and she estimates the snow level to be about 10,000 feet. She said the plan is to hike to the lake in the next few days.

“The weather is not great for the next couple weeks, looking at the weather models,” Trish said. “We’re going to get up there as soon as we can. … Most people are skiing right now. They’re hiking up Maroon and skiing down. Otherwise it’s snowshoe-required, I would think, past Maroon Lake at this point.”

From mid-June to Labor Day the Maroon Bells will be accessible only by public bus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can drive their own cars before and after that timeframe, or if a child, age 2 or younger, is present.

Thursday also is the target date Colorado Department of Transportation officials plan to open Independence Pass. The Thursday before Memorial Day is the traditional opening day.

Tracy Trulove, communications manager for Region 3, said crews made good progress last week, getting through the snowpack, clearing rocks, filling potholes and fixing delineators. But last weekend’s snowstorm, which began Friday and ran through the weekend, dumped as much as four feet of new snow in some spots along the pass. She said crews have had to clear some areas twice.

“Our goal is still to be able to keeping working it and get some warmer days to help with that,” Trulove said.

Avalanche mitigation began Thursday, and Trulove said she expects Aspen’s crew to meet in the middle with the Twin Lakes crew by Monday or Tuesday.

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