Rocky Mountain Wilderness Restoration, Colorado

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14288A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Enjoy mid-summer in the popular Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area
  • Camp near Snowmass Lake, at the foot of Snowmass Peak
  • Restore the natural scenery by removing campsites and fire rings


  • Tools and training for project are provided 
  • Meals prepared by experienced backcountry cook and volunteers 


DatesAug 9–16, 2014
StaffAnne Slaughter Perrote

Trip Overview

The Trip

For the hiker who loves the high terrain, this trip offers splendid benefits: shimmering alpine lakes nestled at the feet of classic Rocky Mountain peaks, valleys filled with pale green aspen and feather-edged green spruce, flower-filled blazed meadows, scenic peaks above 14,000 feet. The uniqueness of the Maroon Bells Snowmass region was recognized by Congress when it was named as one of the first of five Colorado wilderness areas on passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. At more than 180,000 acres, it is the 4th largest wilderness area in Colorado and a destination for hikers, climbers, and alpinists from all over the world. Now, this year, come celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in the Elk Mountains of Colorado with other hikers who share your interest.

The wide range of habitats—from forested valleys to slopes and peaks well above tree line—provide a range for many species, including elk, mule deer, as well as black bear mountain lion, and the recently introduced mountain goats. Our work project along the shore of Snowmass Lake and several streams will take us into areas where this range of wildlife roams. We will camp near the lake, which is a stopover point on the world-class Four Pass loop route as well as a base camp for those climbing 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain.

Although these peaks receive many feet of snow in the winter, the area can be very dry in the summer. In the arid environment of Colorado, shores of lakes and streams are a crucial habitat for wildlife. Over 80% of all animal species utilize these narrow strips of land and depend on the lush vegetation for food and shelter. Our work project will greatly improve wildlife habitat and help provide a better wilderness experience for visitors.


The Project

By repairing campsites and removing fire rings or selected camp sites from riparian areas, our efforts to naturalize the lakeshore will allow thousands of other yearly visitors to Snowmass Lake to better enjoy the wilderness experience. Over the past two years the White River National Forest Service staff has inventoried the many campsites in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness area and found that 30% of wilderness area campsites are too close to lakes and streams. Our goal is to remediate this serious problem since these campsites degrade water quality and habitat, and reduce the wilderness character of this highly valued area. Staff from the Forest Service and Wilderness Workshop, a local environmental advocacy group, will train us for our work and assist us on the project. We will complete a variety of tasks, so you can learn new skills and use different tools throughout the week.


All participants should plan to be in the area by the evening of Friday, August 8, which will give us time to coordinate our plans and enjoy a social gathering before the actual trip begins. On Saturday morning, we will drive to the trailhead and backpack to our campsite near Snowmass Lake, taking Saturday to set up our camp and kitchen. We’ll start the campsite removal work on Sunday, working in various areas throughout the week. We’ll have a day off midweek to explore the nearby mountain passes, or explore Remuda Basin, or fish, or rest in camp—the choice is yours. We’ll break camp on Saturday morning, enjoy our return hike to the trailhead, and drive back to Aspen. 



Getting There

Denver airport is about a three-hour drive from Aspen. The convenient Colorado Mountain Express runs frequent shuttles to and from the Denver airport to Aspen. It may also be possible to carpool with other participants, or you may want to rent a car. There is also an airport in Aspen, but it offers fewer and more expensive flights. If you fly into Aspen airport, fare-free bus transportation is available to the town itself. We will carpool between Aspen and the trailhead.

Note: Please allow plenty of time on both ends of the trip to get to and from your flight. 

Accommodations and Food

To acclimate to the more than 8,000-foot altitude, you may want to arrive in Aspen at least a day before the trip begins. Early arrivals can stay at several established National Forest campsites in the area, dispersed camping in the National Forest, as well as many hotels. On the trip we’ll camp near scenic Snowmass Lake, and hike from our base camp to our work site every day. We will use water from local streams or lakes, which we will treat or filter.

Please come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure and that our food will provide you with energy and an emotional boost at the beginning and end of the day. Our experienced cook plans a tasty menu selection, with occasional meat on the side. We will have limited refrigeration and we will safely store our food to protect us and wildlife, two factors that help to determine menu content. We will maintain a group commissary and everyone will take turns preparing food under the guidance of the trip cook.

If you have food allergies or strict food preferences, please contact the cook to see if accommodations are possible within the limitations of the trip setting before registering for the trip.

Trip Difficulty

Strenuous. Following an 8.5-mile hike along a 2,600-foot elevation gain, we will camp and work at 8,500 feet. We will backpack in to a base camp, carrying personal gear, although tools, food, and cook gear will be packed in and out by the Forest Service. Days may be warm, but it will be cool at night, and weather can change quickly in the mountains. Plan to dress in layers to accommodate temperature change, and do bring rain gear and sun protection. 

Equipment and Clothing

You will need lightweight camping gear, a backpack and a day pack, broken-in hiking boots, leather work gloves, and layers of non-cotton clothing for both sun protection and cool or wet weather. You should bring water treatment or a filter for your own water during the work days. There is excellent trout fishing in the area, so you may want to bring a fly rod, but a Colorado fishing license is required. 

A more detailed equipment list will be sent to participants.




  • USGS Snowmass MT
  • White River National Forest maps currently out of print, new edition due soon


  • Fielder, John and T.A. Barron, To Walk in Wilderness. A book with photos and observations of Maroon Bells Snowmass.
  • Scott, Doug, The Enduring Wilderness. A book about the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the areas initially protected.


Our work, information, and talks will all pertain to conserving this area so that future wildlife and human generations may continue to enjoy this habitat. The project’s conservation focus is to restore wilderness areas and to restore a Leave No Trace quality to campsites. By decreasing the number of established campsites, and removing the sites that are in wildlife habitat, we will be assisting in this management process. The increasing housing development in the valley areas around Aspen, which have been traditional overwintering areas for wildlife, have added to the stress on wildlife populations, and have increased the importance of maintaining the wilderness character of this area. The Sierra Club is focused on protecting the environment for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Anne Slaughter Perrote lives in Madison, WI, where she works at a family practice medical clinic. She has been enjoying Sierra Club service trips for eight years, for their combination of beautiful natural areas, great company, opportunity for learning, and new challenges. She looks forward to exploring the valleys and slopes of the Colorado Rockies.


Leslie Haase lives in Colorado and is looking forward to taking a trip in one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in her home state. She loves to backpack, hike, and cross-country, backcountry, and downhill ski. She enjoys cooking and working with people on Sierra Club trips and has been doing it for seven years. She also is presently taking a watercolor and figure drawing class.

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