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Visits to Maroon Lake and the surrounding area surged to a record 320,500 this summer, up about 12 percent from summer of 2016, the U.S. Forest Service estimates.

“It has gotten busier and busier over the last few years,” said Shelly Grail, recreation staff manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Last summer, the Maroon Bells Scenic Area saw an estimated 285,000 visitors.

The busiest month was September when leaf-peepers flocked to see the iconic view of Maroon Lake with the snow-capped Maroon Bells in the background. Parking spaces were filled before the welcome station was staffed at 7 a.m. on lower Maroon Creek Road on weekends. Buses operated by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority were stuffed to the tune of 65,186 riders.

The record visitation didn’t cause any problems. Grail said the facilities at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area were built to handle those types of numbers.

But the Forest Service has implemented procedures to limit damage to the Maroon Lake environment, including limiting personal vehicle traffic from Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 1.  On the last day of service, a particularly busy Sunday, RFTA calculated that 4,763 people rode the buses, according to statistics supplied by the Forest Service.

The estimate of total bus ridership to Maroon Lake was 215,562, according to the Forest Service. Approximately 93,000 people visited by private vehicle, the agency said. Roughly 12,000 cyclists made the climb.

To read more of this story go to aspentimes.com

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