Aspen’s popular Difficult Campground closing early for the season |

Aspen’s popular Difficult Campground closing early for the season

Difficult Campground east of Aspen is one of the largest and most popular camprounds in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.
U.S. Forest Service/courtesy photo |

One of Aspen’s largest and most popular campgrounds will be shuttered for the season Tuesday.

Difficult Campground, 4 miles east of Aspen, must close to accommodate renovation of the drinking water system, The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday. The campground is usually open into September. Reservations haven’t been accepted for the past six months for any dates past Aug. 15, according to Mike Kenealy, recreation special uses coordinator for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. So while it is an inconvenience, no one had their trip unexpectedly altered.

The district has sought funding for years to replace the pump house and water system distribution lines. They finally came through this fiscal year. The project will cost nearly $200,000 with design and engineering, Kenealy said.

The Forest Service decided it would be best to complete the project this fall rather than wait until the start of next construction season. The work has to be done when the ground isn’t frozen because new lines must be buried and soil compacted.

“It’s popular whenever it’s open.” — Mike Kenealy, U.S. Forest Service

Kenealy estimated it will take 90 days to complete the project. The work needed to start in mid-August to leave enough time to complete it before winter strikes, he said. From a camping standpoint, there is no good time to close the 47-site campground.

“It’s popular whenever it’s open,” Kenealy said. “It’s one of the highest occupancy ones we have on the (White River National Forest).”

While camping will be prohibited at Difficult until summer 2018, the day-use area and parking for the Difficult Creek Trailhead remain open.

The current water system was built in 1981 and because of deterioration, age and evolving drinking water regulations, the water system must be updated from the source through the distribution system. Kenealy said the distribution lines have developed a lot of leaks over the years. The distribution systems for drinking water at Bogan Flats in the Marble area and Chapman in the upper Fryingpan Valley, the other major campgrounds in the district, previously were replaced.

Alternative campgrounds in the area include Lincoln Gulch, Weller, Lost Man and Portal on the Independence Pass corridor; Silver Bar, Silver Bell and Silver Queen in the Maroon Creek Valley; and numerous sites in the Fryingpan and Crystal valleys.

The White River camping options can be found at

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