23,000 acres: Experiment with the Experimental Forest
A short drive southwest of the community of Fraser lies a 23,000-acre expanse of wooded mountain slopes that holds a special place in the hearts of many Grand County locals, the Fraser Experimental Forest.
The Fraser Experimental Forest, established in 1937 as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Experimental Forest and Range system, contains a myriad of trails and a maze of forest service roads that Grand County visitors can roam at their pleasure. Recreation options abound in the Experimental Forest from the quick and easy Creekside and Flume Trail Loop, running along both sides of St. Louis Creek, to the lengthy and difficult trek to Mt. Nystrom, challenging the hardiest of hikers with a round-trip distance of 23 miles.
The Experimental Forest is the starting point for most hikers looking to tackle one of Middle Park’s most popular mountains, Byers Peak, and also contains a expansive amount of single track trails for mountain bikers. The Zoom trail, leading down from a local forest service road to the Flume Trail offers a wild and fun experience for bikers looking to tackle some modest downhill riding.
Other popular trails in the Experimental Forest include challenging yet manageable options like West St. Louis Creek, Deadhorse and Tipperary Creek and more strenuous options like the lengthy 13-plus mile St. Louis Lake trail. If you are looking for a quick and easy place to get into some wild spaces but are not looking to roam too far from the Fraser Valley, the Experimental Forest is one of your best bets for finding the level of adventure for which you are hunting.
When venturing out into the Experimental Forest take note of its name. The Experimental Forest, while a popular and practical destination for hikers, mountain bikers and those looking to pitch a tent in an official USFS campsite, it is first and foremost an outdoor research facility for the federal government where studies are conducted on a wide range of topics. As such, visitors should take care to stay on forest service roads and formal trails and not venture off the beaten path. Likewise camping in the Experimental Forest is strictly limited to the formal sites in the St. Louis Creek Campground.
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