Still plenty of options to recreate under stay-at-home order |

Still plenty of options to recreate under stay-at-home order

State parks remain open, while national forest rec. sites close

Nat Cooper spends a sunny Thursday morning skinning up Blackmer on Emerald Mountain. Despite a statewide stay-at-home mandate issued by Gov. Jared Polis effective 6 a.m. March 26, people can still get outside and exercise, as long as they maintain a safe, 6-foot distance from others.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With a statewide stay-at-home executive order issued by Gov. Jared Polis effective 6 a.m. March 26, Steamboat Resort closed the mountain for uphill access. Ever since the resort closed March 15, the trails have been dotted with snowshoers and skinners looking to extend the season. 

Between that and the statewide mandate, active Steamboat Springs residents might be left questioning what they can still do and where they can go. 

The executive order tells all Coloradans to stay home but states they can “engage in outdoor activity, such as, walking, hiking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biking or running.”

Turns out, there are still tons of ways people can enjoy the sunshine while still complying with the governor’s order.

“I consider mental and physical health a big part of being able to cope with the deprivation of freedom of mobility and social interaction,” said Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter. “It creates stress. The more stressed you get the more it suppresses your immune system, and that’s the last thing we need.”

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What you can do:

1. Use the Core Trail

The Yampa River Core Trail is and will always be open for walkers, bikers, runners and dog walkers. Just remember to keep 6 feet between you and other users and not to walk with anyone you’re not already quarantining with. Of course, the Core Trail isn’t the only place to walk, as all sidewalks and county roads do the job just fine. 

Dogs can join as well. The executive order said that bringing pets for a walk is fine. Dog owners just need to remember to comply with leash laws.

2. Hike up Emerald

Blackmer Drive on Emerald Mountain is already a popular trail, but with the closure of the resort, it’s sure to get busier. 

“My concern, in particular, is the Blackmer trailhead overwhelming the Fairview neighborhood and people congregating at the base,” Suiter said. “If that happens, we likely will have to close it.” 

Nat Cooper was one of many people making his way up Blackmer on Thursday morning. He said the trail is his “go-to.” There were about a dozen cars near the trailhead shortly before noon.

“It’s very important as you can see by the number of people here and on the cross country tracks down below,” Cooper said. “They’re very popular right now, and I think it’s great for the community.”

Access to Blackmer on Emerald Mountain was packed on a sunny Thursday morning in Steamboat Springs. Despite a statewide stay-at-home mandate issued by Gov. Jared Polis effective 6 a.m. March 26, people can still get outside and exercise, so long as they maintain a safe, 6-foot distance from others.
Shelby Reardon

As the snow melts and more trails in the area become available, hikers can begin to utilize those as well, as long as it’s not a trail in a seasonally closed area due to elk habitat. 

3. Visit a state park

State parks are still open to the public but Colorado Parks and Wildlife has closed all campgrounds, including yurts and cabins, effective Thursday, March 26, until further notice. In a news release, CPW said its vacating current campers and will work with future reservation holders.

Randy Hampton, public information office for the Northwest Region of Colorado, said that nobody was using the winter camping spots at Steamboat Lake, but two people were camping at Stagecoach. They’ve been notified of the order and asked to pack up.

Trails, boat ramps, marinas and shorelines are all still accessible to the public. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Hampton said. “It changes on a daily basis, but we are doing our best to make sure we continue to provide the opportunity for people to recreate in safe ways. So, we’re keeping parks open.”

All offices and visitors centers are closed, but there are still staff and rangers on site. If visitors have a question, they can call ahead or use the CPW website. People are still required to hold a season pass or pay the $9 daily fee at self-serve stations within parks.

Local state parks such as Stagecoach or Steamboat Lake, are great places to Nordic ski, snowmobile, bike, fish or experience a change of scenery with the family.

4. Cross country ski at Howelsen

The city has made an effort to keep the Nordic trails at Howelsen Hill open as long as possible to provide locals a place to recreate during these stressful times. 

The Hobo Park trail around the ballfields and base of Howelsen has closed, but the remainder of the trails are still being groomed multiple times a week.

“I’m just asking people to comply with social distancing,” Suiter said. “Then we’ll be able to use these amenities for as long as the snow holds. Then, it’s hiking and biking season.”

5. Fish in the Yampa

The Yampa River, like the Core Trail, has gotten busier and busier over the last week. As long as anglers keep 6 feet between themselves and others and comply with the catch-and-release laws on the river, they can fish away.

What you cannot do:

1. Skin up Steamboat Resort

On the evening of Wednesday, March 25, Steamboat Resort announced it was temporarily closing uphill access to comply with the governor’s executive order. Since the downhill operations closed on March 15, the trails have been packed with people earning their turns.

Per Polis, all Colorado ski resorts are closed until April 6. Alterra Mountain Co., which owns and operates Steamboat Resort, has still not announced a season closure.

2. Explore Fish Creek Falls

Developed recreational sites within the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland have temporarily closed until April 30 to discourage gatherings of people at trailheads and parking lots, according to a news release issued Thursday, March 26.

“I would say broad scale, we’re seeing more visitation this time of year than we typically do,” said Aaron Voos, public affairs specialist for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland. “People are anxious to get out and use the outdoors as a way to escape what’s going on right now. We’re definitely seeing an uptick in use.”

Affected recreation sites
  • Brush Creek/Hayden Ranger District (Medicine Bow NF):  Bottle Creek, Brush Creek, Ryan Park
  • Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District (Routt NF):  Dry Lake,Dumont/Muddy Pass, Fish Creek Falls, Quarry, Seedhouse
  • Parks Ranger District (Routt NF): Gould, Grizzly Creek, Routt Access
  • Laramie Ranger District (Medicine Bow NF):  Albany, Chimney Park, Corner Mountain, Green Rock, Happy Jack, Tic’s toilet, Tie City
  • Douglas Ranger District (Thunder Basin NG):  Turner Reservoir toilet, Weston Hills

Many roads and trails in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland are either unaccessible or under seasonal closures, which is typical for this time of year. Perhaps, if it was summer, and visitors could reach more sections of the national forest, things would be different.

“Due to the time of year, people are pretty congregated at access points — a lot of those access points we maintain,” Voos said. “In order to discourage that congregation, we had to technically close those locations.”

For a national forest, closed means still accessible, but no trash cans and no bathrooms. The fee box will also be capped off to keep many people from touching the same small surface.

For more information, people can contact their local ranger station, many of which are operating under altered hours.

3. Go to a playground, skate park, picnic site

Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation has been working to sanitize public playgrounds and trash cans every day for nearly two weeks, but with the governor’s executive order, all playgrounds are now closed. The same mandate is closing skateparks and all picnic structures. 

“There will be signs. They have to be closed,” Suiter said. “Those are areas that are conducive to public gatherings.”

4. Ski at Howelsen

The oldest operating ski hill in North America shut down ahead of the final Ski Free Sunday on March 15, so the Poma or Barrows Lift won’t be operating for another year. However, until Parks and Recreation starts to push snow off the face, it’s there for uphill access.

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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