The wait for springtime trail use in Routt County may be longer than usual
The second snowiest season on record was a huge win for Steamboat Springs winter sports lovers, but those seeking spring activities may lose out on a couple weeks.
There is still snow all over the ground in town, which means recreational trail use for hiking and biking may open up later than usual.
“A lot remains to be seen,” U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Aaron Voos said. “It all depends on the weather we have, additional snow we might get and the rate the snowpack melts off. We’ll see, but just guessing right now, it might be a little later than typically people are able to get out to the forest.”
According to Voos, trails normally open up around Memorial Day, but with unpredictable weather patterns and the snowpack already on the ground, that benchmark date could be in jeopardy.
“We still have a month before then, and more spring snowstorms or 70 degree weather is a pretty big difference in what that means as far as accessibility,” Voos said.
Voos was unable to offer any specific dates for opening trails at this point but says certain areas will open up sooner than others. North Routt trails will likely have very different opening dates than trails on Rabbit Ears Pass.
A lot of it depends on elevation. Some of the lower trails will likely dry out quicker, while the higher elevation trails typically do not open until July in high snowpack years like this one.
Mad Creek north of downtown is usually one of the first to open, and the trailhead is still closed and covered in a layer of snow.
Voos offered Buffalo Pass as another example.
“There are not any hard and fast dates on when we open those gates up. We just do it as things dry out and as the snow melts,” he said. “When it is dry and ready to have traffic on it, we go ahead and swing those gates.”
The Forest Service discourages trail use and sometimes implements seasonal closures in high saturation areas. Even when the snow melts, trails may be too delicate for recreational use.
“There are all sorts of different issues that come with mud season and runoff season,” Voos said. “Sometimes with creek crossings we have to keep things closed down because it is not safe for people to try to get across waterways. Maybe the trails are too muddy and usage might tear them up.”
On top of snow and mud concerns, many trails also have seasonal wildlife closures in place, which in some instances can go into May or early June.
According to Voos, the front desk and recreation workers in the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears ranger district will have the most up-to-date information on trail openings. He encourages people who have questions to call the office for day-of information.
The Forest Service’s website and social media accounts will also provide updates as they come.
“We’ll get the message out in a lot of different ways, so we encourage people to check with our staff or online before they try to go anywhere to see what places are open,” Voos said.
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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