The Forest Service and partners are expecting another busy and vibrant fall colors viewing season at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area for the month of September. “Since Maroon Creek Road opened in mid-May, it has been another busy year at the scenic area,” said Shelly Grail, Recreation Program Manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. “We encourage visitors to come mid-week to avoid the crowds and use the Maroon Bells bus for the most convenient way to get to the scenic area as the parking lot is full before 6 a.m. during peak season.”
The best way to discover the Maroon Bells is by bus!
The RFTA Maroon Bells Bus is celebrating 40 years of sustainable and informative trips to the Maroon Bells. The Maroon Bells Scenic Area is accessible by bus between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. through Oct. 8. If you are riding the bus, parking is available at Aspen Highlands Ski Area for up to $20 on weekdays and up to $25 on weekends. In addition, visitors may park at the City of Aspen’s parking garage at 427 Rio Grande Place for $15 per day. For more information, contact the Aspen Skiing Company at (970) 923-1227 or (800) 525-6200.
The first bus to the Maroon Bells departs Aspen Highlands at 8:00 a.m., and service continues approximately every 20 minutes until 4:30 p.m. The last bus departs the Maroon Bells at 5:00 p.m. and arrives at Aspen Highlands at 5:30 p.m. Bus tickets may be purchased at Four Mountain Sports in Aspen, Aspen Highlands Village or at the Rubey Park Transit Center.
Available again this year is free, overflow parking for visitors coming to see the Maroon Bells. Beginning on Sept. 15, the Buttermilk parking lot will be open for free parking with a free bus service to Aspen Highlands. This service will be offered the last three Saturdays and Sundays in September to accommodate increased visitation. The bus will run from the Buttermilk lot to Highlands every 30 minutes from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Buttermilk parking lot is located north of Aspen on the west side of Highway 82.
The Maroon Bells Scenic Area bus service will end after Oct. 8. At that time, the Forest Service will be reducing services; the welcome station will be open from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Water will be turned off and the bathrooms will close as visitation decreases. Silver Bell Campground will remain open but Silver Bar and Silver Queen Campgrounds will close as the camping season wanes. Public access for fall color viewing, photography, hiking and camping will be unrestricted after Oct. 8. The gate to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area will close Nov. 15, weather depending. After that date, only cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobile operations are allowed up to the scenic area until the following spring.
New this year at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area:
Visitors to the Maroon Bells may notice newly installed ropes and signage guiding visitors along pathways. This summer, the ropes and photo/viewing areas were installed along pathways and around the lake to protect fragile vegetation and to direct pedestrian flow. Fishing access is still available at the southwest end of Maroon Lake. Help us keep the Maroon Bells Scenic Area pristine for years to come by staying on the designated paths and viewing areas during the busy autumn season!
Directions for parking and taking the bus:
From either Aspen or Snowmass the easiest way to get to the Maroon Bells is by bus. From Aspen take the free Castle/Maroon bus from Rubey Park to Highlands. If you are coming from Snowmass or Downvalley, go directly to Highlands and park. Parking is available at Highlands for up to $20 on weekdays and up to $25 on weekends depending on length of stay. At Highlands you will need to buy tickets at Four-Mountain Sports for the bus to Maroon Bells. The bus will pick you up right outside Four-Mountain Sports and drive you to the Maroon Bells. If the Highlands parking lot is full another Downvalley option is available at Buttermilk or the Brush Creek & Hwy 82 Intercept parking lots.
2018 Bus Rates:
· Adults $8; under 16 years of age or over 65 $6; Children 5 and under are free.
· A $0.50 Forest Service recreation fee is part of the $8 adult and $6 senior RFTA bus fee. This fee goes towards repairs, maintenance, improvements, and education.
· Four-Mountain Sports in Aspen Highlands Village
· Four-Mountain Sports in Aspen on Durant Street
· Rubey Park Transportation Center
For additional information:
· For information on traffic and parking availability the public is encouraged to call the Maroon Bells Information line at (970) 945-3319. This phone line will be updated regularly with reports on traffic, parking and weather conditions.
· View this video created by Aspen Chamber for a how to guide on visiting the Maroon Bells.
· Visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/whiteriver/MaroonBells, contact the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District at (970) 963-2266.
· For bus schedules and detailed information about RFTA’s service, visit www.rfta.com/routes/maroon-bells or call (970) 925-8484.