Forest plan curbs snowmobile access |

Forest plan curbs snowmobile access

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Snowmobilers will find some areas of the White River National Forest closed this winter, now that the newly adopted forest plan is in effect.

The U.S. Forest Service will be putting out a free map that lets snowmobilers know where they can and cannot go in the White River, according to Mike Kenealy, forestry technician with the Sopris Ranger District in Carbondale. The map will be available locally at the Sopris and Aspen Ranger District offices, as well as the White River’s headquarters in Glenwood Springs.

“The best thing would be to have people get the map,” Kenealy said. “It’s not quite snowmobile season yet, but with the next big dump, I’m sure they’ll be coming in soon.”

The forest plan means new winter-travel restrictions in some areas of the White River, including some areas that were formerly popular with snowmobilers, such as the Thomas Lakes area near Mount Sopris.

The Thomas Lakes area, and all national forest lands south and west of the Hay Park Trail No. 1957, are now closed to snowmobile use. The area has been designated for nonmotorized backcountry recreation.

“Mount Sopris is in the wilderness, but up until this year, snowmobilers have been able to ride up to the Thomas Lakes area,” Kenealy said.

The Hay Park Trail, Hay Park and lands to the north and east, or below the trail, remain open to snowmobile use.

All designated wilderness areas were already closed to motorized uses, but the forest plan identifies recommended wilderness areas that will carry the same management regulations, according to Kenealy.

“We have significant pieces of ground that are now managed as wilderness,” he said.

The recommended wilderness designation encompasses Red Table Mountain north of Ruedi Reservoir and Assignation Ridge west of Highway 133 near Redstone.

Most of the Red Table Mountain lands that have seen snowmobile use in the past, accessed off Cottonwood Pass, remain open to the machines, Kenealy said.

Several other, smaller areas have also been recognized as recommended wilderness and are now closed to motorized uses.

“Most of the smaller areas never saw much snowmobile use anyway,” Kenealy said. “That’s one of the reasons they’re being recommended as wilderness.”

The Forest Service is also reminding snowmobilers of some pre-existing restrictions. On Pearl Pass Road and in adjacent Montezuma Basin, for example, snowmobiles must stay on the roadway. That has long been the case.

Motorized travel is also prohibited within the boundaries of any ski area or resort on national forest lands, except when authorized by a special-use permit or in emergencies.

There are quite a few areas that remain open to snowmobiles, Kenealy added, urging riders to stop by a ranger district office and pick up a map.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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