Muddy conditions limit trail options in Steamboat area
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While locals might have returned home from spring break with dry, sunburned skin, trails around town are quite the opposite. In fact, thanks to our big winter and this previous week’s drizzly weather, options are still relatively limited for hiking and mountain biking.
All city-maintained Emerald Mountain singletrack trails are currently closed due to muddy conditions though you can bike or hike Blackmer Drive to the Quarry. Most other local mountain bike trails are also too wet to ride, including those on Buffalo Pass, upper Spring Creek and the Red Dirt area of Mad Creek.
“Not much is rideable right now,” said Routt County Riders Executive Director Kelly Northcutt. “A few people rode the Ridge and Rotary trails earlier, but the week’s rain and snow made it all too wet again. Riders should stay off of muddy trails and obey seasonal wildlife closures.”
The city reminds riders that as spring progresses across the valley, please respect trail closures and prevent long-term damage by staying off of muddy trails. The city’s Open Space and Trails crew is monitoring the city trail network and will mark trails open when appropriate.
“The city has an amazing system of trails, but in spring, patience is a virtue for all trail users,” said Open Space and Trails Supervisor Jenny Carey. “We appreciate everyone’s efforts to minimize damage by staying off muddy trails, which is vital to their long-term protection.”
In addition to ongoing snowmelt, unsettled weather with showers and thunderstorms is predicted through Monday, with snow possible above 9,000 feet, which is also keeping trails muddy.
While most big game wildlife trail closures were lifted on April 15, the Bureau of Land Management closure for the Beall trail is in effect until June 30.
“The closures lifted on April 15 were for winter range,” said U.S Forest Service recreation specialist Kent Foster. “The Forest will have another closure on Buff Pass from May 15 to June 15 for elk and deer calving, which affects both the Flash of Gold and BTR trails. But they might not be open anyway due to snow until early to mid-June this year.”
The recently created WHILD — Wildlife Habitat Improvement Local District — Fund provides a permanent endowment to support wildlife through habitat improvement focused projects. Projects include capital funding, planning, research, enforcement and education.
“As part of our education efforts we want people to understand that our resident elk herds are coming out of a very heavy winter snowfall and need as much energy as possible to successfully birth their calves,” said Helen Beall, WHILD Fund manager. “Respecting the closures of these areas during calving season shows that we can share the land — allowing us to recreate during certain months and providing animals needed habitat zones during critical life cycle periods.”
The WHILD Fund will sponsor a lunch and learn event at noon June 9 to discuss project areas of the fund and how community members can play a part in supporting wildlife habitat. To register, email Helen@yvcf.org.
That said, there are still trails available to both hike and ride. Local trail options include:
• Blackmer to the Quarry
• Spring Creek Trail — currently snow free to bridge #3
• Neighborhood trails such as Sailors Way, Butcherknife and Blue Sage
• Ridge and Rotary trails on Emerald Mountain
• Cedar Mountain Trails in Moffat County (Bureau of Land Management).
A map and up-to-date trail information, including closures, can be found at maps.steamboatsprings.net/trails.
Portions of Buffalo Pass closed for elk calving
Don’t plan on biking or hiking the new Flash of Gold or BTR trails anytime soon.
An area of Routt National Forest on the pass will be seasonally closed for elk calving from May 15 to June 15. The closure area includes two trails on Buffalo Pass — Flash of Gold and BTR.
No use of the trails will be allowed for one month to minimize recreational disturbance of elk during calving season. The mandatory closure is designed to protect elk calving areas for resident herds.
“The district greatly appreciates public cooperation in adhering to the spring closure and sharing closure information amongst the community, as well as with out-of-area visitors,” said Hahns Peak/Bears Ears District Ranger Tara Umphries. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service are working together to give these herds a break during this critical period.”
The restricted area is 355 acres of National Forest System land, mapped as Colorado Parks and Wildlife Elk Production Area and designated by the 2016 Buffalo Pass Trails Project Decision Notice. The restricted area does not include a 200-foot buffer on either side of the portion of Buffalo Pass Road — Forest Road 60 — that bisects the restricted area.
The closure area provides pockets of habitat where elk find security and food during spring calving without being disturbed by human activities.
Closure signage is posted at affected Forest Service trailheads, and maps and brochures are available at area businesses and at the district office. Violation of the mandatory area closure is a punishable offense.
To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email ebuchanan@SteamboatPilot.com.
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