menu

How to Get Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Backpacking Permits


Nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is an iconic backpacking destination that attracts hikers from all over the world. Due to its ever-growing popularity, the U.S. Forest Service recently implemented a Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness backpacking permit reservation system for the most popular trails in the area.

The backpacking permit reservation system is designed to take pressure off of the alpine environment while helping to preserve the wilderness experience the area was designated for. Navigating this new permit reservation system requires planning and comes with some special considerations. This article shares everything you need to know so you can seamlessly snag a Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness backpacking permit this year.

Alpenglow on West Maroon pass when backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

When Are Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Backpacking Permits Released?

Reservations for Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness permits are released in two blocks:

February 15th at 8am MST for permits from April 1-July 31st.

June 15th at 8am MST for permits from August 1-November 30th.

Permits are $10, per person, per night for permits between May 1-October 31. Children under 16 are free. There is also a $6 non-refundable reservation fee. Be aware, you are limited to 2 permits per year.

If you want to Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness backpacking permits, you’re going to need to be prepared to log into rec.gov the morning that permits are released to make your reservation. BE PREPARED AT 8AM, SHARP!

I was able to get permits on both release dates last year, however I logged in approximately 15 minutes after reservations opened and pickings were SLIM by that point. I ended up having to cancel my early-season Conundrum Hot Springs reservation because of severe weather, which is one of the major downsides of having to get permits months in advance.

Cancellations happen throughout the season, so keep an eye on rec.gov if you have the flexibility to plan last-minute backpacking trips!

Woman backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness with a hiking pole in the air in front of a mountain.

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Permit Zones

In order to streamline the permit system process, areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness that require advance permits are divided into permit zones. These zones are the most popular areas for backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, but most of the Wilderness area is actually not within a permit zone. This means you can backpack in these areas without an advance permit.

These are the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Permit Zones:

  • Capitol Lake Zone
  • Geneva Lake Zone
  • Snowmass Lake Zone
  • Upper Snowmass Zone
  • North Fork Zone
  • East Fork Zone
  • Maroon Zone
  • Crater Zone
  • Conundrum Hot Springs Zone

Trails in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness That Require Backpacking Permits

These are a few popular backpacking routes and destinations in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness that require an overnight permit obtained in advance:

Planning On Parking at the Maroon Lake Trailhead?

Maroon Lake is a popular starting point for the Four Pass Loop and other backpacking trips in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Overnight parking at Maroon Lake is pretty limited. However, since permits are also now limited, it’s easier to get a reservation than it has been in the past.

In order to make an overnight parking reservation at Maroon Lake you MUST use the link that is provided when your permit is reserved. If you try to make reservations through the Aspen Chamber of Commerce website it will look like every date is fully reserved, but that may NOT actually be the case.

When I made Four Pass Loop reservations last June, I went straight to the Aspen Chamber of Commerce site and it looked like all of the overnight parking reservations were already taken. I had resigned myself to having to take the shuttle to the trailhead, but a couple of months later, I saw people online talking about getting last-minute overnight parking reservations through a link in their permit reservation. Lo and behold, the link brought up a different reservation page for overnight parking at Maroon Lake and almost every date still had availability throughout the rest of the season.

It seems like a lot of people made the same mistake I made last year. I’m sharing this tip so you don’t have to!

What to Know About Backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

There are a few special regulations that come with backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The regulations are detailed on your permit. However, it’s important to be aware of them before your trip, so you can plan ahead and prepare.

  • Dogs MUST be leashed in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. This regulation exists to protect the wildlife in the area and your dog. Dogs are allowed on most trails, however they are not allowed in the Conundrum Hot Springs Zone.
  • Fire are PROHIBITED above 10,800 ft. If you’re camping in an area where fires are permitted, make sure you’re aware of any fire bans or restrictions and always practice campfire safety.
  • Approved bear canisters are required for overnight trips.
  • Remember to always practice Leave No Trace when hiking and backpacking.
  • Not sure what to pack for a backpacking trip in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness? I have a detailed backpacking packing list that goes over everything you need!

Man and dog backpacking in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Maroon Bells Recreation Area Parking Permits

If you’re planning a day trip to the Maroon Bells, you will still need to navigate a somewhat complicated parking reservation system.

Due to the world-renowned popularity of the Maroon Bells and limited parking infrastructure, a vehicle parking reservation and shuttle system is in place at the Maroon Lake trailhead. Even though the Maroon Bells Recreation Area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the parking reservation and shuttle system are managed by the Aspen Chamber of Commerce.

There are 4 different types of parking reservations available for the Maroon Bells Recreation Area at Maroon Lakes:

  • Day Use Parking: 12am-4:30pm MST (you must arrive prior to 8am from May 26-October 22)
  • Evening Parking: 5pm-12am MST
  • 24-hour Parking: Midnight-midnight (you must arrive prior to 8am from May 26-October 22)
  • Overnight Parking: This must be reserved through your backpacking permit reservation confirmation!

If you aren’t able to get a parking reservation you can also take the shuttle from Aspen Highlands. Reservations for the shuttle are made through the same site as the parking reservations, so it’s easy to pivot to plan B if things are sold out. The shuttle is $16 for adults, $10 for seniors over 65, and $10 for children under 12.

Parking Reservation Information

Cost: $10

Dates: May 15-October 31

Hours: All day

Where to Get Tickets: Aspen Chamber of Commerce

Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado with daisies in the foreground.

Pin It For Later:

  1. Mackenzie says:

    Hi Kate! Thanks for all the helpful information. I am hoping to get a permit to do 4-pass loop this year but I find it a little challenging to understand the system. Rec.gov says a permit is needed for each night of the trip but a person can only have 2 permits per year. If I intend to do a 3-night trip is that still considered one permit and I just need to get a spot in the zone I plan to camp in each night? Do you have recommendations for which zones to stop in for a 3 night trip?

    • Kate Jaquith says:

      Hi Mackenzie! All 3 nights will be on 1 permit. When you go to make the permit reservation you get to specify the number of nights and select the zone that you’ll be camping in each night. Camping in the Maroon Zone, North Fork Zone, and Snowmass Lake Zone would make a good 3-night trip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FREE guide:
the top 5 resources for finding epic hikes

Download your free backpacking gear packing list

Get the Packing List

sign up for the newsletter

thank you for subscribing!

Affiliate Disclaimer: As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases made from affiliate links that I share. This means that Kate Outdoors will earn a small commission from any purchase that you make through an affiliate link at no additional cost to you.

Hiking Disclaimer: Hiking and other outdoor activities are inherently dangerous and can result in serious injury and/or death. The information provided on this Website is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for additional research, proper training, experience, and judgment.
You may encounter certain risks and hazards when hiking or engaging in other outdoor activities. These risks and hazards include, but are not limited to, falling, injury, wildlife, dangerous terrain, inclement weather, falling rocks or debris, hypothermia, heatstroke, dehydration, and getting lost. 
Trail conditions are constantly changing. This Website is not liable for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in the information provided. All users of this Website should be aware of the risks involved with hiking and other outdoor activities and should exercise caution at all times.
By using the information contained on this Website, you agree to assume all risks associated with hiking and other outdoor activities and release Kate Outdoors LLC from any liability for any harms, claims, injuries, losses, and/or damages that may occur. Always use your own judgment and discretion when hiking or participating in other outdoor activities, be prepared, and take responsibility for your own safety. 

Privacy Policy

Terms & Conditions

 © 2020-2024 Kate Outdoors LLC