ASPEN, Colo. — Reservations will open soon to access the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, one of the most iconic parts of Colorado.
Starting April 11, visitors can make a reservation to drive and park a private vehicle or take the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) bus to the parking lots.
Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the USDA Forest Service Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said the reservation system, which has been in place for a couple years, has been helpful in reducing overcrowding and improving visitor experience.
She said the system started with the outbreak of COVID-19 as a way to manage the reduced number of people who could ride the shuttle.
"The program is sticking around because it helps the forest service better manage its resources," Grail said. "The shuttle drivers and rangers know what to expect in the day ahead."
The RFTA shuttle service — which costs $16 per person, with a discount for kids and seniors — will run from May 27 into the fall, as late as Oct. 24 depending on weather. Seats may be limited and masks may be required depending on COVID-19 guidelines in place at the time. The shuttle can carry about 35 people.
The shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Aspen Highlands, where paid parking is available. Riders can also use the free RFTA shuttle from Ruby Park in downtown Aspen to Aspen Highlands.
The road to the parking lots in front of Maroon Bells opens on May 15. Parking reservations are required and available for half-day, whole-day, and overnight times.
Visitors can also get dropped off between 6-8 a.m. at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area without purchasing a parking reservation. However, these individuals will need to purchase a one-way shuttle ticket to take back down to town. This cannot be done at the parking lot and there is no cell service. Taxis, hotel shuttles, ride services or any other kind of commercial drop-offs are now allowed at any time.
To make a reservation or learn more, visit www.AspenChamber.org. Group reservations are available. While walk-up shuttle tickets may be available, having a reservation guarantees you a spot on the shuttle. You can also call the Maroon Bells Information Line at 970-945-3319 for more details.
Bicyclists who use the Maroon Creek Road must ride single file on the right side of the road and must have helmets.