Maroon Lake project to rope off area is effort to end ‘social trails’ near Maroon Bells
Maroon Lake is being overrun and now it is being surrounded.
To curb the crowds from going off trail and hurting the environment at the waters near the iconic Maroon Bells, the U.S. Forest Service is spending $30,000 to install low posts connected by ropes to delineate where people can and cannot walk, said Karen Schroyer, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.
“It’s kinda like going to Yellowstone to the see the geyser,” Schroyer said Tuesday of the increase in visitors.
Workers also will create two observation areas by the side of the lake where people can take snapshots of the popular Maroon Bells vista, she said. The lake with the Bells as a backdrop has earned the title of the most photographed spot in Colorado, and photographers often are lined up right at the water’s edge to get shots.
“It’s actually an improvement,” Schroyer said. “It looks really nice.”
More than 320,000 people visited Maroon Lake in the summer and fall of 2017, according to Forest Service estimates. That was up from 285,000 visitors the summer before.
The busiest month was September because of the leaf-peepers, when the parking spaces were full before the welcome station was staffed at 7 a.m., and tens of thousands rode Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses to the area.
The problem areas are all around Maroon Lake, she said.
“Over the years, with the numbers of people up there each summer, it’s easy for people to get off the trails and create a picnic area,” Schroyer said. “You can see where people have created new trails.
“Creating shortcuts and social trails … kills the vegetation and creates erosion problems with the soil.”
The project has been in the works since last year, while crews have been installing the posts and ropes for the past couple of weeks, she said. It should be finished by the end of the season.
“We don’t consider it a major project,” Schroyer said. “We just want to create a good way to keep people on the trail.”