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Blessed is Buff Pass: New trails offer new mountain biking options

Riders make their way up the new Flash of Gold trail on Buff Pass.
Bike Town USA/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Buffalo Pass was the main beneficiary of this past season’s trail work in Steamboat Springs, with more than 21 miles of new and improved trails being built. The result is a bonanza of new mountain bike riding options offering everything from technical descents to smooth cruising just a 10-minute drive — or hour bike ride — from town.

“Our major focus this year was up on Buff Pass, and it came out great,” said Gretchen Sehler, who helped lead the summer’s trail-building efforts.

U.S. Forest Service recreation specialist Kent Foster points out new trails on a map.
Photo by Joel Reichenberger

The work is all part of the larger, voter-approved 2A trail-building effort, which earmarks more than $5 million from lodging tax proceeds over 10 years to building new trails.

The Buffalo Pass Trails project is a partnership between local organizations, such as Routt County Riders, Bike Town USA, the city of Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.

This past season marked the fourth year of the decade-long commitment, with sights set on the Buffalo Pass trail system. New trails include 11.3-mile Flash of Gold, with, most recently, an additional 6-mile upper section ending near the summit of Buffalo Pass; the 1.25-mile beginners Panorama Trail, finished in July; a redesign of BTR, which was once an unauthorized pirate trail; a new 2-mile trail near Dry Lake called Fiddlehead, named for a fern that grows in the region; and, in October, the completion and re-routing of the popular 3.3-mile Grouse Trail, offering more advanced riding.

“We had great working conditions most of the summer, and, in all, we completed 21 miles of new designated trail in 2017,” said U.S Forest Service recreation specialist Kent Foster. “We’ve been lucky to be able to concentrate on that area.”

Foster said there are an additional 17 miles of trail to be completed on Buffalo Pass in 2018.

“We’re about halfway there,” he said, adding that a total of 43 miles are planned for the area.

Up next is a motorized trail to link the Dry Lake area to more motorized trails higher in the mountains without forcing riders to take the road, a downhill-only trail on Spring Creek, a trail around the flanks of Buffalo Mountain and completion of the Soda Creek Trail.

“It’s taking the pressure off Emerald, which is great,” Sehler said. “It’s already spreading people out more. It makes me excited to give riders a new playground.”

Construction could start as soon as spring 2019 on the Mad Rabbit Trails Project, which addresses the areas of Mad Creek, Rocky Peak and Rabbit Ears Pass. The work would occur on public land managed by the Forest Service, which is currently seeking initial public feedback on the project.

“There’s a lot of public interest,” Foster said.

The Mad Rabbit project is the final 2A project on land managed by the Forest Service, and two proposals are currently in the works.

Proposal A, which calls for 79 miles of new trails, was designed by Forest Service staff and takes into account concerns related to wildlife, watershed and other natural resources. Proposal B, which calls for 68 miles of new trails, more closely resembles a 2013 proposal developed by the Steamboat Trail Alliance Group.

The Forest Service’s goal is to complete its study, which includes a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, by the end of the year.


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