Going the extra mile: Several miles of new trail in the works in Steamboat Springs area | SteamboatToday.com
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Going the extra mile: Several miles of new trail in the works in Steamboat Springs area

Chris Speer rides on a rugged road on Buffalo Pass while getting some encouragement from his dog, Nellie, at the top of a hill. The U.S. Forest Service is supporting a plan to add several miles of new trail on the mountain pass near Steamboat Springs.
Scott Franz

Completed Projects

• 2014 - Morning Gloria (multi-use single track trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb...

◦ Land Manager: City of Steamboat Springs

◦ Construction by: Routt County Riders and Rocky Mountain Youth Corp

• 2014 - Lower Spring Creek Connection (multi-use all weather trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb...

◦ Land Manager: City of Steamboat Springs

◦ Construction by: Duckles Construction

◦ Funded by: City of Steamboat Springs

• 2014 - (5) Enhanced Crossings (in-town)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb...

◦ Land Manager: City of Steamboat Springs

• 2015 - Wild Rose (multi-use single track trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb...

◦ Land Manager(s): City of Steamboat Springs (approx. 5%) & BLM (approx. 95%)

• 2015 - NPR Trail (Bikes only, downhill directional flow trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb...

◦ Land Manager(s): City of Steamboat Springs

• 2015 - Steamboat II Connector trail (multi-use dirt secondary trail) - Complete

◦ More Details: Temporary easement, hoping to secure a long term solution to outlying subdivisions.

In-progress

• 2015 - Ridge Trailhead Improvements (parking improvements, restrooms) – (completed in 2016)

◦ More Details:http://www.steamboatspringstrails.com/the-proposal/emerald-mountain/emerald-mountain-back/ridgetrailheadimprovements

• 2016 - Howelson Hill Directional Trails (Bikes only, downhill directional) - Phase I in Progress (Phase II stalled in design)

◦ More details: Community comments changed this project to parallel trails for users of different skill levels. http://www.steamb...

• 2016 - Stable Re-route (multi-use single track trail) - In Progress

◦ More details: Re-route that eliminates 3 steep 20+% grades in an otherwise beginner friendly area.

Upcoming Projects

• 2016-17 - Buffalo Pass Trail System

◦ Details: 40+ miles pending final EA approval (hopefully early July 2016)

http://www.steamb...

• 2017 & Beyond

◦ Buffalo Pass

▪ Connections

▪ Gunn Creek: http://www.steamb...

▪ Spring Creek Alt: http://www.steamb...

◦ Mad Creek Trail System

▪ Details: Connections & Loops http://www.steamb...

◦ Rabbit Ears Pass

▪ Upper West Summit Trail System

http://www.steamb...

▪ Lower West Summit Trail System

http://www.steamb...

▪ Connections

▪ Walton Rim Trail

▪ Details: http://www.steamb...

▪ Drunken Hogan

▪ Details: http://www.steamb...

◦ Town Paths & Amenities

▪ Yampa River Core Trail

http://www.steamb...

▪ Others:

http://www.steamb...

— Watching a trail builder show off the jumps, berms and rolls of a new trail on Howelsen Hill is a bit like watching a child open a Christmas present.

On a hot day in June, local trail builder Aryeh Copa had a grin on his face as he rode an imaginary bike over the sharp curves of the soon to be opened NPR, No Pedaling Required, trail on the west side of Howelsen.

Every curve is engineered for maximum entertainment.



Every slope is designed to ensure that water from spring runoff would not create thick pools and make the trail unrideable for weeks.

If it was this exciting for Copa to do a dry run on the imaginary bike, riders were going to be in for a treat, the trail builders predicted.



Below Copa, a crew of workers with rakes, hatchets and pruning shears were blazing a new trail that will make it easier for downhill mountain bikers to descend the hill.

On another hillside, a trail-building machine rumbled through brush and overgrowth to cut even more trail.

And this assembly line of trail building was just a taste of even more ambitious projects that are poised to come this summer.

Armed with new heavy machinery, millions of dollars, dedicated volunteers and willing partners at the U.S. Forest Service and the city of Steamboat Springs, trail builders in the Yampa Valley are starting to write a new, epic chapter in the history of the area’s trail system.

Crews have already completed two new trails on Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain so far this summer.

Cyclists and hikers are using a brand new trailhead and restroom on the other side of Emerald.

Pedestrians are crossing busy streets more safely with the introduction of crosswalks that illuminate with flashing lights.

And now, trail builders are eagerly waiting to begin an ambitious project that will add and improve 46 miles of trail on Buffalo Pass northeast of Steamboat.

It’s a perfect storm, Routt County Riders President Jack Trautman explains as he ticks off a list of projects that are still coming in the years ahead.

And the work is poised to further elevate Northwest Colorado on the list of hiking and biking destinations.

In a place where trail builders have imagined developing seamless trails all the way to Dinosaur National Monument, big dreams are starting to become reality.

Trails less traveled

As he slowly climbed a bumpy Forest Service Road on Thursday halfway up the summit of Buffalo Pass, Chris Speer explained why the mountain pass a few miles from downtown Steamboat is one of his favorite places to ride.

“There are a lot less crowds up here,” Speer said as his dog, Nellie, waited for him to catch up.

Speer is excited about what is poised to happen on Buff Pass as soon as this summer.

Cycling is such an allure on Buff Pass, some trail builders have constructed miles of new trails without the permission of the Forest Service.

At some points, it’s hard to tell the trails were unsanctioned as berms are held up by logs, and portions of singletrack that roll through open meadows with panoramic views are hard to distinguish from a trail you would find on Emerald Mountain.

These unauthorized trails are a big part of the Forest Service’s current plan to improve and expand its system of trails on Buff Pass.

Under the proposal, the Dry Lake parking area would be improved and 38.5 miles of new non-motorized single-track trail would be established.

Some of the pirate trails would be incorporated into the plan and be improved so they are more sustainable and less impactful to the environment, while others would be closed completely to lessen the damage to resources.

“I’ve been talking to Routt County Riders for seven to eight years about these trails on Buff Pass,” Hahn’s Peak Ranger District recreation program manager Kent Foster said Tuesday.

“But our issue has always been, if we put these on the system and accept them, how do we maintain them? We don’t have the money to maintain a quarter of what we already have out there on the ground,” Foster said.

The establishment of a new trail maintenance endowment fund in the city was one piece of the puzzle and has helped to get the Forest Service on board with the proposed improvements.

A large portion of the construction, planning and environmental assessments for the Buff Pass trails is being paid for by city lodging tax dollars that voters overwhelmingly approved to spend on trail construction and improvements in the area.

“It’s really kind of a home run that this is all happening,” Foster said. “It’s taken a long time to get this to come to fruition.”

Millions of dollars to go

The city of Steamboat Springs is only in its third year of a decade-long quest to build new trails. Voters in the city approved spending millions of dollars of Steamboat’s lodging tax revenue on the trail projects.

While much of the early work has focused on in-town projects on Emerald Mountain, the focus in the coming years will shift to the National Forest on Rabbit Ears and Buffalo passes.

Several things have fallen into place to allow such an ambitious undertaking to become a reality.

At the U.S. Forest Service Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District, officials are enthusiastically supporting the drive to improve trails and add new pathways for recreation.

Foster said this commitment was made possible by the fact that the land managers are not occupied with battling a pine beetle epidemic like they were several years ago.

And Routt County Riders, a local cycling advocacy group, is helping to plan and execute the projects at full speed.

“The thing that blows me away is how committed these people are to making this a better place,” RCR President Jack Trautman said in June while he toured a trail building project on Emerald.

Hearing the rakes hit the dirt is music to Trautman’s ears after the dozens of hours of planning and public meetings that preceded the construction of the new trails.

Overseeing the cycling advocacy group is a dream job for Trautman, a former Hewlett Packard executive who recently left his post as the chairman of the city’s parks and recreation commission because he was frustrated by the group’s inability to see projects get done because of a lack of funding.

Here, at the trail assembly line high above downtown, Trautman is seeing the fruits of his labor.

The focus on building new trails isn’t the only major contribution RCR is making to the cycling community in recent years.

Cyclists who need a bathroom break out on Twentymile Road can thank the cycling advocacy group for the installation of port-a-potties placed out in the boonies.

When the city was designing the improvements for Yampa Street, Trautman and other RCR leaders attended public meetings and urged the city to consider including cyclists in its plans so that they could more safely connect to the Yampa River Core Trail.

“It’s an organization (RCR) that is self energizing,” Trautman said. “People take the baton and run with it. There are multiple leaders here.”

Trautman is also reporting constructive talks with the city’s new chief of police about enforcement of road rules and ways to ensure cyclists and drivers remain safe.

Process unfolding

Trail builders and the U.S. Forest Service are ready to launch the major project up on Buff Pass this summer, but they are currently in a holding pattern because of an objection to the plan filed by two locals and an environmentalist from Denver.

The individuals who are opposed to part of the plan are concerned about some of the new trails’ impacts on wildlife and wetlands.

Foster said the Forest Service will soon meet with the people behind the objection to discuss and address their concerns.

If they can be worked out, the Forest Service has trail-building crews ready to go.

“It really takes a village to get all this stuff to happen,” Foster said. “What’s going on is pretty cool. It’s taken a long time to get there, but it will be kind of fun to be a part of it.”

Completed Projects

• 2014 – Morning Gloria (multi-use single track trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb…

◦ Land Manager: City of Steamboat Springs

◦ Construction by: Routt County Riders and Rocky Mountain Youth Corp

• 2014 – Lower Spring Creek Connection (multi-use all weather trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb…

◦ Land Manager: City of Steamboat Springs

◦ Construction by: Duckles Construction

◦ Funded by: City of Steamboat Springs

• 2014 – (5) Enhanced Crossings (in-town)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb…

◦ Land Manager: City of Steamboat Springs

• 2015 – Wild Rose (multi-use single track trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb…

◦ Land Manager(s): City of Steamboat Springs (approx. 5%) & BLM (approx. 95%)

• 2015 – NPR Trail (Bikes only, downhill directional flow trail)

◦ More Details: http://www.steamb…

◦ Land Manager(s): City of Steamboat Springs

• 2015 – Steamboat II Connector trail (multi-use dirt secondary trail) – Complete

◦ More Details: Temporary easement, hoping to secure a long term solution to outlying subdivisions.

In-progress

• 2015 – Ridge Trailhead Improvements (parking improvements, restrooms) – (completed in 2016)

◦ More Details:http://www.steamboatspringstrails.com/the-proposal/emerald-mountain/emerald-mountain-back/ridgetrailheadimprovements

• 2016 – Howelson Hill Directional Trails (Bikes only, downhill directional) – Phase I in Progress (Phase II stalled in design)

◦ More details: Community comments changed this project to parallel trails for users of different skill levels. http://www.steamb…

• 2016 – Stable Re-route (multi-use single track trail) – In Progress

◦ More details: Re-route that eliminates 3 steep 20+% grades in an otherwise beginner friendly area.

Upcoming Projects

• 2016-17 – Buffalo Pass Trail System

◦ Details: 40+ miles pending final EA approval (hopefully early July 2016)

http://www.steamb…

• 2017 & Beyond

◦ Buffalo Pass

▪ Connections

▪ Gunn Creek: http://www.steamb…

▪ Spring Creek Alt: http://www.steamb…

◦ Mad Creek Trail System

▪ Details: Connections & Loops http://www.steamb…

◦ Rabbit Ears Pass

▪ Upper West Summit Trail System

http://www.steamb…

▪ Lower West Summit Trail System

http://www.steamb…

▪ Connections

▪ Walton Rim Trail

▪ Details: http://www.steamb…

▪ Drunken Hogan

▪ Details: http://www.steamb…

◦ Town Paths & Amenities

▪ Yampa River Core Trail

http://www.steamb…

▪ Others:

http://www.steamb…


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