ASPEN, Colo. — After 3,000 logged on to the Maroon Bells reservation system on Monday, there is no doubt that the famous peaks in the Elk Mountains remain one of the most iconic destinations in Colorado.
The reservation system for the scenic area near Aspen opened for the season this week and already, bookings for the parking lot in the mornings and evenings are nearly full.
In the first few hours of the reservation system opening, 3,000 people logged on to book a trip, according to rangers with the White River National Forest.
Officials said they were expecting that many people, but the site still crashed because of the overload. Once the system was back up and running, rangers said on average, one booking was made every second.
"It's absolutely nuts," Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner said. "But we're excited to have that many people come visit their national forest and glad to know people are planning ahead as well. It's really important."
There are still reservations available to take the shuttle to the reflective lake and view of the two peaks. The shuttle service starts June 7 and continues into October. People can book a reservation on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association website.
Warner said more than 50% of the people who made reservations during the first few hours are from Colorado.
"We really urge people to know before you go," Warner said. "Make those plans ahead of time, get out there, figure out what restrictions might be out there, plan that camping trip. Otherwise you might be disappointed that there's not going to be a place for you."
This is the second year Maroon Bells Scenic Area will have a reservation system in place. It was first implemented last year to reduce crowds because of the pandemic.
A shuttle bus brings people to and from the lake from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can park in the scenic area parking lot in the mornings and evenings. Both forms of access require a reservation.
Capacity on the shuttle bus is up to 18 people per shuttle – it was limited to 15 last summer. Rangers explained spots could open up depending on how COVID-19 restrictions pan out.
"As COVID restrictions loosen up, we anticipate there may be more opportunities," Warner said. "So people that might not have gotten that slot for a bus reservation, they may be able to check back in throughout the summer as things loosen up. If they loosen up."
Demand to see Maroon Bells is clear. If you've ever been there, Warner said you know why.
"The scenic beauty of Maroon Bells is what brings people there," Warner said. "Then the tranquility and ability to let go a little bit has really increased people's intent to visit their national forest. And we love that people are doing that, we just ask that they recreate responsibly."
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