Camping permits will be required near Maroon Bells, Conundrum Hot Springs in 2018

Kelly Jensen, KUSA

Photo credit: Andrew Warren

ASPEN – By next summer, backpackers looking to spend a night near Conundrum Hot Springs will need to pay for and reserve a spot to limit human impacts on the popular camping spot.

At least, that’s the drafted decision made by Scott Fitzwilliams, the White River National Forest Supervisor. It is his job to decide how to resolve and improve issues caused by overuse of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness area.

The U.S. Forest Service presented a plan in November of 2016, and this week, Fitzwilliams issued his draft decision.

Since its only a draft decision, there is a 45-day objection period where the public can submit their concerns. Details on how to do that are on the bottom of this article.

A permit and reservation system for Conundrum Creek will be implemented as soon as possible, likely by summer 2018.

Permits would be taken out online to limit the number of groups allowed per night, beginning with the Conundrum Hot Springs area in Phase 1 of the proposal.

The cost will likely be about $10 (per reservation, not per night). One reservation would be good for up to ten people.

“Although much of the implementation details are yet to be worked out, we are exploring options through the reservation site, a tool to create an online reservation system for the area,” said Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger, in a press release.

Conundrum Hot Springs and Conundrum Creek are some of the most heavily-trafficked camping areas in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass forest region.

Problems such as unburied human waste, campsite hardening, erosion, illegal tree-cutting and campfires, dog waste (even though dogs aren’t allowed there), and everything from trash to tents left behind have plagued the area for years.

The proposed reservation system aims to reduce some of these impacts and restore the area.

Last year, wilderness rangers packed out 136 pounds of trash from in and around the hot springs.

That’s Phase 1.

Phase 2 of the draft decision would address Four Pass Loop: Crater Lake, Maroon Lake, Snowmass Lake, North Fork, East Fork, and Upper Snowmass zones.

Implementation for the Four Pass Loop reservation system is expected to occur sometime after the Conundrum Hot Springs and Conundrum Creek zone implementation, according to the USFS.

The Four Pass Loop is recognized worldwide as a premier 28- mile backpacking loop.

Over the years, the Four Pass Loop has seen similar resource impacts as Conundrum due to increased levels of overnight camping such as human waste issues, campsite proliferation, vegetation damage, soil erosion and loss of vegetation due to illegal campfires.

Phase 3 will focus on implementation for the Capital Lake and Lower Capital zones after successful implementation of Phases 1 and 2.

During the 2016 summer season, Wilderness Rangers encountered 273 incidences of unburied human waste in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.


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