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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

Maroon Bells sees another record number of visitors

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy
Aspen Public Radio

The U.S. Forest Service said more than 320,000 people biked, bussed or drove to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area this season. That’s another record-setting year.


The number of visitors to the Maroon Bells has grown by about 50,000 each year for the past three seasons. This year, the most popular month was September, when more than 65,000 people took a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority shuttle to see the fall colors.

Shelly Grail is recreation manager on the Aspen Sopris Ranger District. She said the facilities at the Bells are designed to handle large crowds. Those thousands of visitors used more than a million rolls of toilet paper over the course of the season. But the ecosystem is not as durable.

“We do see continued resource impacts, primarily around the lake where everybody wants to be,” Grail said.

Forest Service officials will discuss possible improvements to signage and trails to limit that damage, according to Grail.

The number of cyclists using Maroon Creek Road continues to grow, as well. Grail said the Forest Service is still considering how to best manage the varied uses, including a possible fee to ride the popular road.


Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.