MAROON BELLS/SNOWMASS WILDERNESS, Colo. (KDVR) — If you’re planning a trip to hike and camp overnight in the Maroon Bells area, you’ll need to pay a fee in order to do so.

Starting May 1, 2023, the most tracked-out areas of Maroon Bells will cost $10 per night per person to camp with a $6 processing fee, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday. Fees will go toward maintaining the wilderness area as recreation and overnight camping there has quadrupled in the last 16 years.

The most popular areas include Conundrum Hot Springs, the “Four Pass Loop” (which includes Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake), Geneva Lake, and Capitol Lake. These areas already require a permit which needs to be obtained prior to recreation. The Forest Service said there will be more rangers in those locations and the trails will be improved with the use of the fees collected.

“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,” Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner said. “This overnight permit and fee program is critical to giving us the resources we need to effectively manage, restore and protect this cherished area.”

Exceptions to fees are for children under 16 years of age and approved school groups. The required fees run through the summer into fall ending Oct. 31. The Maroon Bells Scenic Area is not affected by the new cost.

The permits go on sale on recreation.gov in February.

Other wilderness areas, parks charging fees

Maroon Bells is not the first area to impose a fee on campers. Rocky Mountain National Park charges $20 for overnight camping and will increase to $30 per night starting Oct. 12.

The park is planning to raise summer campground fees from $30 to $35 a night but that increase will not go into effect until the summer of 2023.

According to the park, the increased campground fees will address the cost increase of trash removal, custodial servicing, general site maintenance and snowplow operations during the winter months.

Some state parks implemented reservation systems over the last few years to help maintain trails and control excessive use, which is one of the leading causes of damage to the land. Eldorado Canyon State Park was the first state park to require a reservation and Mount Evans and Brainard Lake also require them during certain times of the year.