Planning to check the Maroon Bells off your fall bucket list? Leaf peepers may soon need a reservation to catch fall colors at this iconic Colorado spot.
A recently proposed pilot reservation system for the bus service to Maroon Bells Scenic Area aims to address increased visitation, significant traffic congestion, and transportation challenges seen during the peak season of September and October.
A stakeholder group, consisting of representatives from the City of Aspen, Aspen Skiing Company, Pitkin County, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), and the U.S. Forest Service, and The Aspen Chamber Resort Association, is scheduled to meet this week and further explore the following possibilities.
• Starting shuttles at 5:30 AM to serve the “sunrise crowd”
• Running the shuttle later until October 11, Columbus Day weekend
• Implementing a reservation system pilot for the peak visitation period of September and October.
Maroon Bells Scenic Area is located in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest near Aspen, Colorado. The scenic area is framed by the two maroon-colored peaks, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, which are often referred to as the Deadly Bells due to the number of accidents and deaths that have occurred on the mountains in the past. Climbing the pair of iconic 14ers consists of navigating loose, unstable, and dangerous rock.
It’s also one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas to visit in the state. According to the RFTA board of directors meeting agenda, “the increasing demand leads to long waits for shuttle buses, as well as parking queues at the Aspen Highlands garage, creating traffic congestion and delaying RFTA shuttles.”
Visitors are currently required to use a shuttle bus from RFTA that runs between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM from June to October. Parking is available at the Aspen Highlands parking garage. Visitors also have the option to take the RFTA Castle/Maroon bus route to Aspen Highlands to board the Maroon Bells Scenic Area shuttle. During peak visitation, wait times to board a shuttle often exceed one hour.
In 2019, shuttle buses from RFTA experienced record ridership on September 28, with 3,480 passengers served one-way.
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