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Forest Service rangers see record numbers at "hot spots" in Maroon Bells wilderness

White River National Forest

Forest Service officials say early data shows record numbers of visitors to high use areas in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness over the summer.

Rangers contacted, or educated, 11,000 people while on patrol across the entire 180,000 acre wilderness area. That’s almost double the five-year average.

Busy spots like the Conundrum Creek trail saw more people than ever. Use was up 20 percent. An average of 62 people were on the trail everyday. Wilderness Ranger Andrew Larson says the high use was easy to see.

"We had more days this summer where users were parked up and down Castle Creek Road than ever before. We had so many nights up at Conundrum where there were 200 people - festival style - camped out."

The crowds are hurting the natural environment. Even though campfires are outlawed, people are cutting down healthy green trees for firewood. This summer there were 47 illegal campfires at Conundrum. The Forest Service is considering a limited entry permit system for that area, as well as the Four Pass Loop.