Plenty of opportunities remain to camp in U.S. Forest Service campgrounds around Aspen after Labor Day weekend, unlike in years past.
Campgrounds in the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Crystal River valleys will remain open well into September in all cases and into the fall in some cases.
The concessionaire that operates many of the campgrounds — White River Recreation Co., a division of California Land Management Services — has kept more facilities open longer than its predecessor, Thousand Trails.
“We have users. We have guests that want to stay,” said Eric Mart, a founder and executive with California Land Management Services. The company placed the winning bid for a five-year management contract for many White River National Forest campgrounds before the 2012 summer.
Mart said his company needs to balance demand with staffing and business expenses. There needs to be enough demand among campers to justify keeping campgrounds open, he said. Company officials think that demand exists.
Difficult Campground, with 46 sites the largest in the Aspen area, will remain open until Sept. 29. The three campgrounds in Maroon Creek Valley, all operated by the Forest Service, also will remain open until Sept. 29. Those are Silver Bar, Silver Bell and Silver Queen.
Weller Campground, on Highway 82 up Independence Pass, is scheduled to remain open until Sept. 22. Lincoln Gulch and Lost Man, higher in elevation, will close Sept. 15.
Chapman Campground, the largest in the Aspen-Sopris District, will close partially Sept. 16, when 41 sites on the south end of the campground close down. The 37 sites on the north end of Chapman are scheduled to remain open until Nov. 11.
Mike Kenealy, the White River Forest Supervisor’s Office liaison with the concessionaire, said demand would dictate whether some sites in the campgrounds close before the final closure date.
“If we have a site that’s not getting any use at all, we might let them close,” he said.
Kenealy also noted that cold weather could force the concessionaire to shut down the pressurized water systems before the sites being closed. Campers should be prepared to bring their own water once the nighttime temperatures drop, he said.
The Dearhamer, Elk Wallow and Little Mattie campgrounds in the Fryingpan Valley are scheduled to close Nov. 11. There is demand among hunters, Kenealy noted.
The Little Maud and Mollie B campgrounds by Ruedi Reservoir will close Sept. 15. The Ruedi Marina campground will close Oct. 28.
In the Crystal River Valley, Avalanche Campground will close Oct. 20 while Redstone will remain at least partially open until Nov. 11.
Bogan Flats near Marble is scheduled to remain open until Oct. 20.
Kenealy said this is the second year that the campgrounds in the Aspen-Sopris District will remain open later than they did for much of the 2000s. Thousand Trails closed many spaces the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend.
“We did see some increased use,” Kenealy said of last fall. Over time, he expects use to grow in the fall as Roaring Fork Valley residents and visitors realize that camping in established campgrounds is available.
The weather, of course, is the main factor in demand for campground space, he said. Cold, snowy weather reduced demand. Indian-summer weather increases demand.