New regulations have gone into place that limit bicycles to designated roads and trails on the Arapaho National Forest in Grand County. This is the result of close collaboration between trails organizations, businesses, residents, local governments and environmental organizations across Grand County and is part of a broader effort to improve the Sulphur Ranger District’s trail system.
The project, which started implementation in 2017, aims to improve trail-to-trail connectivity, creating loop opportunities and designing trails to provide a range of experiences for beginner through advanced riders. This is being achieved through new trail construction, trail reroutes, trail width reductions from roads to single track, and closing and decommissioning some system and non-system trails. The entire project is expected to take 5-10 years to complete.
“A key aspect of this project is to balance all these trail improvements with the conservation of wildlife habitat, watersheds and other natural resources we value,” said Sulphur District Ranger Jon Morrissey. “Part of finding that balance is curbing the proliferation of user-created routes and keeping the impacts to the trails system so that wildlife and other resources can thrive.”
As a result, off trail biking now is expressly not allowed across the ranger district. The regulation applies to all types of bikes in summer and winter. In addition, two designated trails will be off limits to bikes in winter, including Tipperary Creek (N68) and Flume (N82).
Organizations such as Headwaters Trails Alliance, International Mountain Bike Alliance and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have been integral partners in the project, raising funds, providing input and managing implementation, Morrissey added.
Improving trail signage, maps, and trailheads are also part of the effort, providing better wayfinding to keep bikers on legitimate routes. The new sign system provides a difficulty rating for mountain bikers identical to what is found at ski areas. And HTA has created a map that the Forest Service hopes will eventually become the official trail system map for the area.
As part of the Sulphur Trails Smart Sizing project, nearly 6 miles of new bicycle trail has been constructed or reconstructed, while 1.6 miles of unneeded trail has been decommissioned; and 28 directional signs have been installed. An additional 1.5 miles of trail are planned for construction and reconstruction, and 23 more signs are planned for installation by the end of the operating season.