Big game habitat seasonal closures begin around Steamboat Springs |

Big game habitat seasonal closures begin around Steamboat Springs

Wildlife, such as deer and elk, struggle to find shelter during snowfall. The US Forest Service has instituted closures to on winter ranges at lower elevations, so herds won't be disturbed by humans.
Lance Maggart/Sky-Hi News File photo

As harsh winter weather closes in on wildlife, herds of deer and elk will seek places for shelter. To ensure herds remain undisturbed by humans as they forage for food under snowfall, the US Forest Service has instituted seasonal closures for the animals’ winter range. These closures began on Thursday, Dec. 1, in multiple locations around Steamboat Springs on the Routt National Forest. These closures will last until April 15 in areas where encounters between wildlife and people normally occur.

The Forest Service has closed approximately 12,000 acres on the Routt National Forest to provide a safe winter habitat for deer and elk. This includes trails such as Mad Creek, Red Dirt, Hot Springs and Spring Creek.

In a news release, the Forest Service staff thanked the local community and visitors for an increasingly high level of compliance with the closures in the last few years. According to the Forest Service, better compliance has decreased wildlife conflict and kept herds on their winter range. Since heavy snowfall pushes herds towards lower elevations (and closer to people) these ranges provide pockets of security for the animals.

“Collectively we’ve identified areas critical for wildlife, while maintaining public access for winter recreation on the Forest,” said Michael Woodbridge, a ranger in the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears District. “Public cooperation is the key to ensuring effective closures, so we ask the recreating public to respect the winter closure areas that allow our vulnerable deer and elk herds on the Routt National Forest to survive and prosper into the next year. Sharing information amongst the community and with out-of-area visitors will help us maintain the balance of wildlife and people that we strive for here in the Yampa Valley.”

The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to provide these closures for wintering wildlife seeking shelter.

The current closure areas include:


  • Spring Creek Trail 1160
  • Spring Creek Alternate Trail 1160.1A
  • Mad Creek Road 128
  • Mad Creek Trail 1100 (Swamp Park Trail)
  • Red Dirt Trail 1171
  • Hot Springs Trail 1169
  • Foothills south of Steamboat Ski Area to Highway 40


  • Greenville Mine area (Roads 440 and 471)
  • Coulton Creek area (Trail 1188 and Road 429)
  • Lower Bear Trail 1206
  • Sarvis Creek Trail 1105
  • Silver Creek Trail 1106
  • Areas adjacent to the Radium and Indian Run State Wildlife Areas (Roads 212 and 214)
  • Area north of Toponas off Forest Road 285

Closure signage is posted at trailheads, and maps and brochures are available at area businesses and at the Forest Service office.

Both mandatory and voluntary closures are in place until April 15, 2022.
US Forest Service/Courtesy Image

Some of the closure areas border Steamboat Ski Area, so the resort has included the wildlife winter range closure areas in their ski area trail maps and mandatory closure signs are posted along the ski area operating boundary. 

The public can use the following alternative winter recreation areas on Routt National Forest:  Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Gore Pass, Lynx Pass, Bear River Corridor (entrance to the Flat Tops) and Dunckley Pass. Other areas include the South Fork Trail (Trail 1100.5A) south of the Elk River and Forest Road 430/Scott Run (Trail 1177).  Another alternate area is located west of Routt County Road 129 at the Hahns Peak Lake Area on Forest Roads 486 and 488.

Other area land managers, such as the City of Steamboat Springs and the Bureau of Land Management, also have seasonal area closures in place that those recreating should be aware of.

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