Transition time: First wave of trails open on Friday in lower and middle valley
Trail users urged to use common sense and stay off muddy routes
Some hiking and biking trails in the Roaring Fork Valley are formally opening Friday, but advocate groups are urging riders to show restraint if they encounter mud.
There is a hodgepodge of opening dates on local, state and federal government lands. Some openings are tied to elevation and historical timelines for drying out. Other trails remain closed longer into spring or summer for the benefit of wildlife.
Trails on Bureau of Land Management holdings in the middle and lower Roaring Fork Valley open the earliest. The U.S. Forest Service keeps many trails and roads closed until May 21 to prevent damage during mud season.
“We are seeing an increasing number of violations from mountain bikers and off-highway vehicles on roads and trails not yet open, as well as from hikers, dog walkers and cyclists in areas closed for elk calving,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in a statement. The Forest Service is urging patience this spring.
Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association this week emailed members a list of trail opening dates. The association also urged riders to chill if they encounter wet and muddy trails.
“It’s up to riders to use some common sense when encountering mud,” said Mike Pritchard, executive director of the association. “If the trail ahead is higher elevation and north facing, then probably time to turn around. When encountering a smaller patch of mud in an otherwise fairly dry zone, then it’s probably OK to proceed. Just be sure to keep the singletrack nice and narrow by going through the puddle instead of around it.”
The openings Friday include the Prince Creek network and trails in the BLM network on the Crown, including Vasten and Buckhorn. However, riders must be aware that the Glassier Trail on the Crown remains closed. That’s important because Glassier connects to Buckhorn Traverse and Vasten. A loop won’t be available until Glassier opens.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is opening the Glassier Trail on May 1 this year rather than May 16, as it did in prior years.
Gary Tennenbaum, executive director of the open space program, also urged people to ride dirt, not mud.
“Any damage by boot/hoof marks and ruts or widening the trail to get around mud takes resources to fix and is quite a bummer for other trails users to have to deal with when trails dry out,” Tennenbaum said.
Other networks opening Friday include the Elk Traverse and north side trails in the Red Hill network outside of Carbondale, the Lorax Trail southwest of Carbondale, and BLM routes north of New Castle.
Two trails in South Canyon west of Glenwood Springs shifted away from an April 16 opening this year. The Lower Coal Camp Trail will open May 1. The Upper Coal Camp Trail will open May 16.
On the White River National Forest, the transition from winter use to summer use occurs May 21.
“This means wheeled vehicles — motorized and mechanical such as bikes — aren’t allowed until May 21 in most areas,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.
Some routes on national forest in the Aspen area are closed until later so users don’t interfere with critical elk calving areas. Tom Blake, Sequel and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity are closed April 25 through June 20. The Anaerobic Nightmare Trail is closed April 25 through June 27. The Government Trail and Sugarbowl Trail are closed May 15 through June 27. Those trails are currently open for winter uses.
Sky Mountain Park’s network of trails open May 16, as does the North Rim Trail. Adjacent options such as the Ditch Trail, South Rim Trail and Highline/Lowline trails are open year-round, but they should be checked for wet and muddy conditions before riding.
A thorough rundown of trail openings and conditions can be found at http://www.rfmba.org/trails/trail-conditions.
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