Grand County trail improvements await forest visitors
September 12, 2014
There's still plenty of warm weather to test out one of the U.S. Forest Service's improved trails in Grand County.
Late summer and early fall provide an ideal opportunity to experience some of the new trail work the U.S. Forest Service has completed this summer with the help of many volunteer groups and a grant from the National Forest Foundation's Ski Conservation Fund. Seven major trails projects are already complete and several more are planned for this fall.
"It's been rejuvenating to spend some time working with the community on improving our trail system and planning for the future," said Sulphur District Ranger Craig Magwire.
Motorized users will find improvements to the Soda Pass Trail and Spruce 'em Up Jack near the Idleglen trailhead and Sherman Creek trail, west of Stillwater Pass. These projects included reroutes of trails out of streams and turnpikes through wet areas.
Mountain bikers will enjoy a reroute and new features on WTB Trail near Winter Park as well as upcoming improvements to Creekside Trail off St. Louis Creek Road in Fraser and construction of a 30-foot bridge over the South Fork of Ranch Creek in the Idlewild trail system near Winter Park.
This season's efforts highlight five wilderness trail projects in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The first of these, in partnership with volunteers from the Grand County Wilderness Group, built a half-mile connector trail from the Broome Hut cabin on Second Creek up to the Mt. Nystrom Trail in Vasquez Peak Wilderness Area.
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A project on the Roaring Fork Trail in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area brought 12 volunteers from around the nation through Wilderness Volunteers to build a 32-foot natural bridge across the rushing waters of Roaring Fork Creek.
Wilderness Volunteers also brought 10 volunteers from across the country to help build a 42-foot span foot bridge and 75 feet of turnpike on the Hi Lonesome Trail, an integral part of the Continental Divide Trail. The bridge provided a safer crossing across Mill Creek while the turnpike provided a less mucky path for horses and other livestock.
A project on Devil's Thumb Trail in Indian Peaks Wilderness is also planned for this fall.
Columbine Lake Trail
One of the most formidable projects this summer was a 1.3-mile complete reroute of the Columbine Lake Trail in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. The trail previously passed through boggy meadows and up steep, muddy embankments. The new trail follows a more sustainable path above the meadows and wetlands, while still affording hikers some fabulous views of peaks and waterfalls. While more work remains to be done on the trail next year, the new route is now open and ready for use.
This project was completed in partnership with the Headwaters Trails Alliance and Grand County Wilderness Group. All told, some 30 people helped bring the Columbine Lake Trail reroute to fruition, including Forest Service trail crews, many volunteers from the Grand County Wilderness Group and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
The National Forest Foundation's Ski Conservation Fund, which is paid for by an optional lodging tax at Winter Park Resort, provided a $13,000 grant that, through Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA), brought a 10-member Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew to the area for two weeks to help complete several trails projects, including the Columbine Lake reroute. The group also helped with a reroute of the popular mountain bike trail WTB on National Forest System lands near Winter Park.
In all, HTA received nearly $20,000 from the Ski Conservation Fund. Some $2,500 will help purchase materials for the National Public Lands Day bridge building project on South Fork Ranch Creek while $1,000 purchased a trail use counter. The remainder helped fund HTA's administrative costs.
Anyone can help pitch in by getting involved on National Public Lands Day on Sept. 27. Call 970-887-4100 for details. Trail enthusiasts also can sign up to volunteer with the Adopt-a-Trail program by contacting Headwaters Trails Alliance at 970-726-1013 or through Grand County Wilderness Group at gcwg.org.