Overnight fees coming to Maroon Bells wilderness in 2023

Backpackers in the most visited areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area will be face overnight fees next year from May 1 through Oct. 31, the Forest Service announced Friday.| Courtesy of USFS

Backcountry campers will have to pay to stay in the most popular areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness starting in 2023, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday.

People hitting the “most visited areas” will be required to have an overnight permit and pay a nightly fee of $10 per person from May 31 through Oct. 1, the forest service said.

The areas include Conundrum Hot Springs, the Four Pass Loop (which includes Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake), Geneva Lake and Capitol Lake. They make up less than one-third of the 181,535-acre wilderness area, which has a trail network of 173 miles and is jointly managed by the White River National Forest and the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.

“Approximately 28% of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness will require a permit and fee in 2023. Additional areas in this wilderness may require a permit and fee in the future if environmental damage becomes too great,” the forest service’s announcement said. “The proposed fee would not apply to day visitors as permits will not be required for day visitors.”

The fees are one way the forest service is trying to ease the pressure on parts of the wilderness the 2017 Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Overnight Visitor Use Management Plan identified as “the most heavily degraded and damaged area,” the announcement said.

The area has quadrupled in overnight use since 2006, resulting in overcrowding, abandoned trash and human waste, user conflicts and such “large-scale environmental damage” as trail erosion, loss of vegetation and campsite soil and vegetation compaction,” the forest service said.

“We have been hearing loud and clear that the public wants us to keep this area a premiere backcountry destination by getting a handle on this over-use and environmental damage,” said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner in a statement  “This overnight permit and fee program is critical to giving us the resources we need to effectively manage, restore and protect this cherished area.”

Revenues from the fee program help fund the restoration of the heavily damaged areas, increase ranger presence and educational outreach efforts.

Fees won’t be required for children 16 years old and younger or for approved school groups. A $6 processing fee per permit will be charged by

The reservation period for 2023 overnight permits and fees starts in February on

Advanced reservations start at 8 a.m. on the following dates.

  • Feb. 15: overnight permits for April 1 through July 31
  • June 15: overnight permits for Aug. 1 through Nov. 30
  • Oct. 15: overnight permits for Dec. 1 through March 31 

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