Aspen-area forest campgrounds reopening in phases
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For a full list of open areas and up-to-date information on re-openings, visit the White River National Forest online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
The U.S. Forest Service is ready for some happy campers.
The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District will phase in the openings of developed campgrounds during the first half of June, agency officials said Wednesday.
Dispersed camping in the backcountry has been allowed but the established campgrounds have remained closed for longer than usual because the Forest Service was working with its concessionaire on protocols related to the coronavirus threat.
“People are ready to camp,” said Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. “They are 100 percent ready to get out.”
The highly coveted developed campsites near the Ruedi public boat ramp open Friday. Chapman Campground in the Upper Fryingpan Valley, one of the most popular destinations, will open June 12.
Difficult, Weller and Lincoln Gulch campgrounds east of Aspen also will open June 12. Difficult Campground is one of the most popular in the area due to its proximity to Aspen and size.
Other Aspen-area campgrounds will have a phased opening. The campgrounds in the Maroon Creek Valley — which includes Silver Bell, Silver Bar and Silver Queen — will open Monday. Also on Monday, Maroon Creek Road will open to vehicles that obtained a permit. Reservations for permits are available at the website for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (aspenchamber.org).
Lincoln Creek Road off Independence Pass will open Monday, so the dispersed camping sites along the road and the developed Portal Campground at Grizzly Reservoir will open that day as well, Grail said.
In the Crystal River Valley, Redstone Campground opens Friday while Bogan Flats Campground on the Marble Road will open June 12. The Avalanche Creek Campground is already open.
Two smaller campgrounds will not open this year — Lost Man near the summit of Independence Pass and Elk Wallow in the North Fork of the Fryingpan Valley.
“We are keeping a few campgrounds that have lower occupancy closed to ensure quality services and site maintenance at the campgrounds with higher occupancy,” the White River Supervisor’s Office said.
Most all of the developed campgrounds in the area require reservations, which can be booked through recreation.gov. Existing reservations will be honored and are in that database.
The three biggest campgrounds in the area — Difficult, Chapman and Bogan Flats — won’t have the group sites open for the foreseeable future because of prohibitions on large gatherings.
The concessionaire operating many of the campgrounds, Rocky Mountain Recreation, will increase its cleaning of bathrooms, as will a contractor cleaning the lesser numbers of sites operated by the Forest Service, according to Grail. A notice will be posted at bathrooms in campgrounds to alert the public when they will be cleaned next.
When picking campsites, visitors are urged to “stay as local as possible” and they should pack out what they bring in, the supervisor’s office said. There will be trash pick-up at the developed campgrounds but campers should pack out trash from dispersed sites.
Grail said trails are in good condition for hikers and other users.
“Trails are much drier than they were last year at this time,” she said.
Visitors will find a mixed status with trailhead restrooms.
“Some trailhead restrooms will remain closed for the 2020 season,” the Forest Service said. “Visitors should plan accordingly and be prepared to be self-sufficient with personal disposable waste bags, self-contained campers or, as a last resort, a small spade for the cat-hole burying method.”
Trail and wilderness crews have been out on routes around the sprawling district since May 26.
Conundrum Hot Springs is honoring existing reservations for camping. The springs are a popular destination for backpackers. New reservations for Conundrum will be taken starting June 15 at http://www.recreation.gov.
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