New, long-established trails provide access, recreation
Trails are a valuable resource for promoting health, fitness, and a connection with nature. Their use is the number one recreational activity in Colorado. Trails are how many Coloradans and visitors connect to nature and wildlife. According to the 2016-2026 Statewide Trails Strategic Plan, each year Coloradans access trails over 250 million times and about nine out of 10 Coloradans report they use trails annually and about half say they generally use trails one or more times a month. Here in the Peak to Peak and Clear Creek County regions of Colorado, there are 100s of miles of trails from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs.
Extensive trail opportunities are open to the public in our area’s National Forests, Golden Gate State Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, county open space parks and other natural areas. The National Park alone has 355 miles of trails for hiking. It’s no wonder trail use is the number one recreational activity here and across in the state.
In June 2015, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced the “Colorado The Beautiful” initiative. The proposal included three priorities to identify 16 critical trail segments, develop a statewide Colorado Trails System interactive map and produce an updated Statewide Trails Strategic Plan. The “Colorado The Beautiful” Initiative emphasizes protecting Colorado’s outdoors, connecting people to the outdoors and linking outdoor areas in Colorado. In the initiative, the Governor highlighted the goal of having every Coloradan live within ten minutes of a park, trail or open space. While that’s not an issue here in the mountains, several major new trail projects in the area are being constructed or planned and towns and counties each have their own updated trail development and access plans.
Through a collaborative project, crews are building the Peaks to Plains Trail, a 65-mile trail stretching from the Continental Divide on Loveland Pass through the length of Clear Creek County to the South Platte River Trail in Denver. The trail project is one of the Governor’s “high priority” trail projects.
After more than two years of challenging construction in Clear Creek Canyon, Jefferson County and Clear Creek County opened a three-mile segment of the Peaks to Plains Trail in July 2016. The two organizations partnered to build a 4-mile segment of the Peaks to Plains Trail along Clear Creek and U.S. Hwy. 6 in Clear Creek Canyon. The final mile is under construction and will open in this year.
Visitors may enter the Peaks to Plains Trail from the Mayhem Gulch Trailhead in Clear Creek Canyon and from the Clear Creek County Oxbow Trailhead, just west of Tunnel 5. The Mayhem Gulch Trailhead will nearly double in size later this year to accommodate increased visitation associated with the Peaks to Plains Trail in Clear Creek Canyon Park and Centennial Cone Park.
The trail is a 10-foot-wide, stained concrete surface, with 500 feet in elevation gain, six new or improved river access points and three bridges across Clear Creek. The bridges have overlooks so visitors can enjoy the view over the water. The trail is multi-use and welcomes a variety of recreational activities.
The Clear Creek County region also boasts a pair of National Recreation Trails. Hiking high above treeline, Grays Peak National Recreation Trail offers hikers the opportunity to summit two 14,000 foot mountains—Grays and Torreys—in one day. Grays and Torreys Peak are the two highest points on the Continental Divide. The Mount Evans National Recreation Trail starts at the Summit of Mount Evans Interpretive Site. The short hike allows visitors to “bag a fourteener” the easy way.
Among other well-known trails in the area, a portion of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail also traverses the entire Peak to Peak and Clear Creek County regions. Established by Congress in 1978, it spans 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada, traverses five states and connects countless communities along its spine.”
For those out for shorter hikes, Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, Golden Gate Canyon State Park and Rocky Mountain National Park offer seemingly endless options. Visitor centers inside parks and online resources provide trail maps and advice on which trails are best suited for all levels of hikers.
The new Colorado Trail System promotes and enhances the Governor’s “Colorado the Beautiful” mission by serving as the connection between people, trails, and technology by incorporating every mile of trail into a single map. The Colorado Trail System is working to map every trail in the state. It intends to serve as the connection between people, trails, and technology by coordinating the efforts of federal, state, county, and local agencies to “create a comprehensive and authoritative repository of recreational trails for public use.” Try it out to find a new trail.
Whether your preference is hiking, jogging, biking, equestrian, camping or motorized travel, this region of Colorado features trails that will satisfy and challenge anyone’s desired outdoor experience. Besides granting access to postcard-worthy views, wildflowers and fresh air, the area’s best trails will lead you to some of the most incredible wildlife-watching locales in the country.
Before setting out on any Colorado hike, consult a map, make sure you have adequate water—at least two quarts per person—sunscreen and enough clothing and layers for changing conditions.
REGIONAL TRAIL RESOURCES
• Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests
• Boulder County Open Space Trails
• Boulder County Open Space Trails App
• Boulder County Open Space Trail Conditions
• Colorado State Park Trails
• Colorado Trail Explorer
• Colorado Trail Foundation
• Colorado Trail System
• Continental Divide Trail Coalition
• Golden Gate Canyon Trail Map
• Larimer County Trails
• Larimer County Trail Conditions
• Peak to Plains Trails
• RMNP Trail Conditions
• RMNP Trail Maps
• Trail Information
© Originally published in the June 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly