Spring comes slowly at Maroon Lake near Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – A small crew made a final push Thursday to free the facilities at Maroon Lake from winter’s grasp in time for Friday’s official opening of the road to the scenic spot near Aspen.
Visitors heading up to the lake, though, will find some of the day-use parking lot still covered with snow, and the restrooms at the bus turnaround are blocked by a drift that reaches nearly to the structure’s rock roof. Other restrooms will be open.
On Thursday, a couple of seasonal workers with the U.S. Forest Service cleared narrow paths along walkways still covered with a foot or more of snow, though the gravel path along the edge of the lake has melted out. Anyone trying to make the hike to Crater Lake (above Maroon Lake) or beyond, however, will be post-holing without skis or snowshoes.
“This is the most snow we’ve had on opening day that I can remember,” said Peggy Jo Trish, Maroon Bells manager. She has worked summers for the Aspen Ranger District for 18 years.
Much of the snow in the valley has melted, except near the lake. Evidence of snowslides is visible in every avalanche path that rings the lake and the road leading to it. Trees knocked over the road by one avalanche were cut and cleared this week.
It will be mostly business as usual at the popular tourist spot this season, with a couple of exceptions, according to Trish.
The entrance station on Maroon Creek Road opens Friday, but vehicles will be charged $5 instead of the usual $10 in the early going. Bus service begins June 18. At that point, vehicles can’t be driven to the lake between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Catch the bus at Aspen Highlands; the fare remains $6 for adults and $3 for children.
The entrance station will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until June 18, when it begins operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Motorists will be charged to drive to the lake during hours when the station is open but the buses aren’t running – from 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m.
Bicyclists may ride to the lake for free.
New this year, backpackers won’t be permitted to drive to the lake once the West Maroon portal lot (where overnight backpackers are directed to park) is full. They’ll be sent back to Highlands to catch a bus, Trish said.
“That’s going to be a big change,” she said.
And, buses will run through the first weekend of October this year. In the past, buses have continued to run on weekends (Friday through Sunday) in September after daily bus service wraps up with the Labor Day weekend.
But, last season the lake was inundated with vehicles on the first weekend of October, Trish said.
“We couldn’t keep up last year. The parking lots were full and people were parking down the road,” she said.
All three Maroon Creek Valley campgrounds are open starting Friday, and about half of the available sites are reserved by early season campers. The fee remains $15 per night to camp.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.