Visitors soak in the evening at Conundrum Hot Springs, outside of Aspen, Colo.

Sam Brasch/CPR News

The Forest Service will soon issue the first round of camping permits for the popular Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen. Reservations open April 18 as part of a larger effort to protect the heavily-traveled area.

The permits, $10 per registration, are available only online through Recreation.gov on a first-come, first-served basis,  and will be required year-round for camping in the area around the springs, which can only be reached on foot. The area covered by the permit requirement includes all of Conundrum Creek Valley from Silver Dollar Pond to Triangle Pass.

The camping permit is required regardless of whether you come up from the trailhead off Castle Creek Road on the Aspen side, or whether you come over from Copper Creek on the Crested Butte side. The permits are also limited to two per person, per calendar year.

The Forest Service says that initially 17 campsites will be available. Three more will be added in the summer of 2018. Most of the sites are limited to to two to four people, though one handles six. Up to 10 people are allowed per registration, with the numbers spread across more than one site.

  • Overnight permits for April 18-July 31 are available at 8 a.m. April 18.
  • Overnight permits for Aug. 1-Nov. 30 are available at 8 a.m. June 15.
  • Overnight permits for Dec. 1-March 31 are available at 8 a.m. Oct. 15.

If you go, all your food has to be in a bear resistant container. If it's not, you'll be ticketed and required to leave.

The ever growing number of campers have left behind messes that rangers have to clean up, and the Forest Service says a plan for disposing of your waste is essential. Human waste bags -- "WAG bags" -- are free at the trailhead.

No dogs are allowed in the Conundrum Creek Valley including the designated campsites. Campfires are prohibited at the springs and above 10,800 feet. And no motorized or mechanized equipment is allowed in the Wilderness area, including bicycles, motorbikes, chainsaws, ATVs, carts, drones, hang gliders and paragliders.

White River National Forest Ranger Karen Schroyer says this system will eventually expand to other parts of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.