Most campgrounds open Friday in Aspen’s Great Outdoors |

Most campgrounds open Friday in Aspen’s Great Outdoors

Difficult Campground from May 15, 2018.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects Ruedi Reservoir to come close to filling this summer.

“We’re going to miss it by 2,000 to 5,000 acre feet,” said Tim Miller, a hydrologist with the agency.

He cautioned that the latest projection was made in early May. Changes in conditions, such as weather and the rate the snow melts, could alter that outlook. Warm and dry conditions have persisted into mid-May.

The reservoir is currently about 71 percent full. It holds 102,000 acre feet.

The U.S. Forest Service boat ramp just past the Ruedi dam is open for the season. The boat ramp at the Aspen Yacht Club will likely be in use at the end of the first week of June, according to Miller.

The Upper Fryingpan River was flowing at about 353 cubic feet per second into the reservoir on Tuesday. The outflow was at 108 cfs. Miller said he anticipated flows on the Lower Fryingpan River of about 110 cfs through May and June. July’s outflow will depend on the inflow. There will likely be calls on water, therefore higher water levels, in August, he said.

Hundreds of camping sites from east of Aspen to near Marble and from Maroon Valley to Ruedi Reservoir will open in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District for the summer Friday.

A concessionaire for the U.S. Forest Service is opening most of the campgrounds while the agency itself has already opened Silver Bell in Maroon Valley and will open Silver Bar and Silver Queen for Memorial Day Weekend, according to Shelly Grail, recreation staff manager at the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

The Forest Service anticipates the usual rush of visitors to Maroon Valley this summer.

“The majority of our seasonal workers will be here by the end of the month,” Grail said.

Difficult Campground, the largest in the immediate Aspen area with 47 sites and a group spot, will open Friday with a new potable water system. The campground was closed halfway through last season so the work could be completed before winter set in.

The Lincoln Gulch Campground and dispersed sites along Lincoln Creek Road will also open on Friday along with Weller Campground. Lost Man, further up Independence Pass, won’t open until June 8.

The fees remain the same this year at $22 for Lost Man, $23 at Weller and $26 per site at Difficult.

In the Fryingpan Valley, half of the 82 sites at Chapman Campground open Friday and the other half open June 8. The fee is $25 per site.

Dearhammer, Elk Wallow and the four campgrounds clustered around the U.S. Forest Service boat ramp at Ruedi Reservoir will open Friday.

In the Crystal Valley, the campgrounds opening on Friday are Bogan Flats on the road to Marble and the 39-site Redstone Campground. The 20 sites in the Osgood Loop of the Redstone Campground are the most expensive in the region at $34 per night plus $5 for electric hookups. The Mechau Loop at Redstone is $30 per site.

Definitive information on the status of the Avalanche Campground wasn’t immediately available.

Maroon Creek Road opened to vehicles last week and some of the bathrooms at Maroon Lake in the Maroon Bells Scenic Area were opened Grail said. The remaining bathrooms will be open and the area fully staffed for Memorial Day Weekend, she said.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will start bus service on June 9 and will extend service through the first weekend in October. The fee will remain at $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and children. The bus staging area is at Aspen Highlands.

“We’re trying to beef up the messaging — just take the bus,” Grail said.

The bus operates between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Private vehicles are restricted during that time. Some visitors try to “beat” the system by driving up earlier or later. Grail said the Forest Service is urging people not to do that because parking is so limited. Using the bus is the best way to eliminate hassles for a visit, she said. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is working on a video that emphasizes that point, she said.

The White River National Forest implemented a reservation system for the backcountry campsites clustered near the Conundrum Hot Springs. Backpackers have adjusted well to the online reservation system, according to Grail.

“Every weekend is book through the end of July,” she said. Reservation will open for the second half of the summer starting in June.

Along with the Conundrum reservation system, the big project for the Aspen-Sopris district this summer is working with partner organizations to rehabilitate trails around Maroon Lake. The project will include filling in material in parts of the trails and more clearly defining routes with ropes and posts. It will occur in mid- to late-June.

In the Aspen-area backcountry, the Forest Service will rely on three wilderness rangers and six wilderness interns to monitor compliance with camping rules at Conundrum Valley and to patrol other parts of the wilderness.

Information about trails conditions and other issues on the national forest around Aspen can be found at It will be updated as the season progresses.