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Maroon Bells by Reservation Only

Advance Reservation to Visit a Public Land near Aspen, Colorado

Finally. The crowds became unmanageable, even with buses. Over 300,000 visitors a year to a National Forest Recreation Area with only 60 parking spaces and one trailhead. And the Corona pandemic arrived, creating a need for a lower passenger capacity in the buses. A real logistical nightmare. So the Aspen Chamber partnered with the National Forest Service to create an online platform for getting a permit to visit the Maroon Bells. All day, 6 hour, , 4 hour, and 2 hour slots of time became available on a first come first serve basis for different days all Summer into Fall. I got a 2 hour slot to photograph in the middle of the day when the lighting is most to my liking. I lucked out with the weather and saw interesting cloud formations as a bonus. It could have been overcast, raining, or even snowing. Reservations filled up fast, so I had to get a slot a week out, hoping for good weather. The Maroon Bells are located in an area of unpredictable weather patterns. A hoped for early morning reflection can quickly turn into rippled water as the sun finally shines on the peaks. In the past, you would simply come back another day with a car or take the bus, knowing you could brave the crowds to take your pictures. Even after the pandemic hopefully fades, this set of restrictions will probably remain in place to prevent the most photographed mountain in America from being loved to death. My two hour visit with my dog was actually way more enjoyable with visitor number limits in place - instead of mobs of people, there were less than a hundred in the whole time I was there. With reduced visitation, an extremely popular scenic attraction became a pleasant visit to a less travelled place.