Overuse threatens future camping in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

ASPEN, Colo. — In 2016, rangers packed out 438 pounds of trash, found 273 incidents of unburied human waste and discovered 323 illegal campfires, according to a report from the Aspen Sopris Ranger District of the White River National Forest.

The report said overnight visitation to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has increased 115 percent since 2007.

Conundrum Hot Springs is one of the harder hit areas, according to the report.  In a single night, 250 to 300 visitors might be camped near the hot springs (See Graph Below, 2015 data).

Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, White River National Forest.

In 2016:

  • 438 pounds of trash
  • 273 incidences of unburied human waste
  • 331 illegal campfires
  • 42 percent dog leash law compliance
  • 215 violations for no bear canisters

Under the new management plan it states, “The increasing trend of overnight visitation to the MBSW needs to be addressed in order to preserve the wild nature of the MBSW for current and future generations.”

“A permit system is a potential management tool that may be selected for a specific zone if sustainable use levels are exceeded in that zone. A separate secondary public process will be available prior to implementation of a fee for a ‘special recreation permit’ in accordance with Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) if authorized through this decision,” according to the report.

Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. White River National Forest.

Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. White River National Forest.