Boulder County encompasses some of the most beautiful scenery and trails in the United States. BCHA spends time and resources making sure Open Space, State Parks, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and National Forest trails will be available to horse owners now and in the future.
TO HELP YOU FIND AND PREPARE FOR YOUR NEXT TRAIL-RIDING ADVENTURE IN BOULDER COUNTY, WE RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING HANDY PRODUCTS:
Happy Trails is BCHA’s compilation of equestrian trail logs in and around the Boulder County area. This publication includes about 140 pages of trail descriptions with maps of each area, and comes in an attractive 3-ring binder. It also includes information on map reading, trail etiquette, safety, trailering, and public land management. HAPPY TRAILS Volume I & II HAPPY TRAILS Volume III $30 each, plus $5 S&H. Click here to order now
Boulder Area Trails Coalition (BATCO) Map
The BATCO map is the ONLY map that shows which trails are open to various user groups (pedestrian, equestrian, bike, motorized), as well as the type of trail surface (paved greenways, soft-surface trails, 4WD roads). It also shows other recreational amenities (bike lanes, trailheads, ranger stations, urban parks, dog parks, recreation centers, golf courses, fishing holes, campgrounds, and even hospitals). It enables people to visualize and select their trail experience before setting out.
The BATCO map is the ONLY map that contains “user-friendly” information about trail etiquette, public land stewardship, citizen stakeholder groups, agency contact information, and fun facts about Boulder County. It contains a montage of dazzling photographs and sketches of recreationists and nature, generating enthusiasm for sustainable outdoor recreation.
The BATCO map is the ONLY map whose net sale proceeds go directly toward new trail construction and trail maintenance in Boulder County! Buy a BATCO map and help support new trails. The BATCO Map measures 30″ x 40″ and is printed on waterproof, tear-resistant paper. Folded dimensions measure 7.5″ x 4″. Retail cost is $9.95. It is also available unfolded and rolled if requested. It’s available in bike, equestrian, outdoor sports, and hardware stores throughout the county. A list of retail suppliers is on the BATCO website under ordering information. Ordering information: click here or contact Suzanne Webel, BATCO Vice President and Map Coordinator, at 303-485-2162 or email@example.com.
Sharing Trails Safely With Horses
Most trails in Boulder County are shared among different user groups, including hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and motorized vehicles. When such diverse groups inter-mix, a positive trail experience requires cooperation, understanding and courtesy by all users. BCHA produced a brochure to help educate trail users of some of the unique considerations that must be taken around horses. Read the text of BCHA’s brochure, “Sharing Trails Safely With Horses,” to become familiar with the rules and courtesies expected of all trail users. This brochure is available in a full color slick paper format. You can Download a PDF file of the full color “Sharing Trails” brochure here. If you would like one or a few mailed to you, just let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trail Rider’s Checklist — Day Ride Suggested activities for making your day trip a success have been compiled by Steve Deitemeyer, CF, Wildland Resources and BCHA. Checklist topics include Pre-trip Planning, Preparing Stock, Saddles and Tack, Saddle Equipment and Accessories, and Personal Gear. Detailed checklist can be found online, click here for PDF file.
AND NOW FOR SOME TRAIL RIDING OPPORTUNITIES:
BCHA Trail Rides, most Wednesdays at 10am
We generally meet up around 10 AM at the trailhead and return around mid-afternoon. The length and difficulty of these rides will be determined by those participating, weather conditions, time constraints, and other factors. We try to keep the group small (fewer than 6 participants on average); and our speed is usually “walk-talk-gawk” (if you want to gallop around or condition your horse for some endurance race, we urge you to do that on your own time, not ours!). Bring lunch, water, a rain slicker, and appropriate layers for the weather. Trailer-pooling may be available depending on participants, destinations, duration, etc. Please email or call me by the evening before so we can organize the ride. Happy Trails! We look forward to riding with you soon. Suzanne Webel 303-485-2162 email@example.com
Photos: Suzanne Webel and Patricia Jarvis Images
Boulder County Parks and Open Space
With more than 100,000 acres under its belt, BCPOS has some of the most equestrian-friendly trails in the County, including Rabbit Mountain, Walker Ranch, Hall Ranch, Heil Valley Ranch, Betasso/Benjamin Preserve, Rock Creek Farm, Mayhoffer/Singletree,and Caribou Ranch. And Boulder County Parks & Open Space knows how to build beautiful, functional, landscaped trailhead parking areas with nice restrooms! The County is currently conducting management plans on several other park areas, including Reynolds/Rogers, Steamboat Mountain, Trevarton, St Vrain Greenway, and AHI/Lagerman/Imel, as well as some key connections between these properties. For a great map of the BCPOS parks and trails, click here or contact Suzanne Webel, BATCO Vice President and Map Coordinator, at 303-485-2162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caribou Ranch Open (and Closed) Space
Our favorite? If you would like to escape the sizzling summer days on the plains, discover the diverse cooler vegetation at Caribou Ranch Open Space. Caribou Ranch Open Space is located on County Road 126, approximately two miles north of Nederland. Horse trailer parking is available ONLY at the Mud Lake Open Space (turn left off CR 126 near the Peak-toPeak Highway) and enjoy the short ride from Mud Lake to Caribou. Car parking is available both at Mud Lake and about 1.2 miles up CR 126 at the actual Caribou Ranch trailhead.
The 2,180-acre property offers visitors a rich tapestry of wetlands, meadows, streams, forests and woodlands. Caribou Ranch is a haven for wildlife where 50 species of mammals could potentially live and/or travel through the open space annually. This represents nearly half of all mammal species found in Boulder County. The most common ungulates are elk and mule deer. A moose group has been observed on portions of the property in the past two years. Also, signs of mountain lion, black bear, bobcat, coyote, red fox, marten, and short-tailed weasel have been found. This open space also includes the Switzerland Trail railroad grade, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Mining began at the Blue Bird Mine complex in the 1870s and operations followed the boom and bust cycles of the industry until the 1960s. In the early 1900s, Blue Bird became a tourist destination, a “whistle stop” during the summer months to a growing demand by city dwellers who wanted to experience the beauty of the mountains. Today you can explore the Blue Bird Mine complex on foot, but horses are not allowed beyond the fence.
The current trail system, 4.5 miles roundtrip, is open to hikers and equestrians only at varying months of the year. Mountain biking is not permitted due to restrictions specified in the purchase agreement. Note: we’ve heard recent rumors that the mountain bikers are trying to overturn the deed-restriction banning them at Caribou Ranch….. Is that what we want???? Also, dogs are not permitted on the open space for wildlife habitat and water quality protection.
Please be aware that all park visitors are required to stay on-trail — no off trail use is permitted. This regulation is in place until hazards are mitigated (e.g. mining test pits, buildings) and cultural resources are inventoried, secured and/or restored (this process could take as long as staff wants, i.e. “forever”). There is a Phase 2 trail construction opportunity consisting of several connections north of the Bluebird Mine along the Switzerland Trail to the Sourdough Trailhead, up to the historic Caribou Townsite and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and over to the Rainbow Lakes Road. But getting these connections actually opened to equestrians is unlikely to happen unless there is a very focused, very persistent, and very effective trail champion to nudge them along. Might that person be YOU?
Please note: Caribou Ranch is closed every year from to protect spring migratory birds, winter elk survival, elk calving, and elk rearing activities. The closure is for the entire property; no visitors are permitted. Approximately 50 species of mammals could potentially live and/or travel through the open space annually. This represents about 50 percent of all mammal species found in Boulder County. Please respect wildlife needs for solitude. Resident caretaker, park rangers, and county sheriff deputies who patrol the open space property can fine violators up to $300. Please help get the word out by passing this message along to family and friends.
For additional information about Boulder County Parks and Open Space properties, visit the department’s web page www.co.boulder.co.us/openspace.
City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks
OSMP has about 127 miles of trails on about 45,000 acres surrounding the City of Boulder. Until recently all of those trails were open to horses. However, increasing urbanization and political correctness have resulted in fewer trails for equestrians and even fewer places where equestrians can park their horse trailers. Those that are left are wonderful, and include Doudy Draw, Flatirons Vista, Springbrook Mesa, Goshawk Ridge, Mesa Trail, South Boulder Creek, Greenbelt Plateau, Marshall Mesa, Boulder Valley Ranch, East Boulder, and White Rocks. Equestrians need to be good ambassadors for continuing our historic enjoyment of this program. Check out the BATCO map for OSMP trails that are open to horses.
The City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department now requires off-trail permits for anyone who wants to go off-trail through Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs) in the Western Mountain Parks, the Southern Grasslands, Eldorado Mountain/Doudy Draw, and Lower Boulder Creek. Maps of these HCAs and applications for permits can be found at www.osmppermits.org. Equestrians are no longer even eligible for off-trail visitation in many areas where others are. Visitors who remain on designated trails in HCAs do not need a permit. Designated trails have been marked with signs that include a trail name. OSMP plans to designate more HCAs in the system as future planning processes are completed. For information on the Off-Trail Permit Program and OSMP, visit www.osmp.org or call (303) 441-3440.
Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, Boulder Ranger District
The Boulder Ranger District comprises some 168,000 acres of forest from the urban interface to the Continental Divide. Favorite equestrian habitat on the National Forest include (in no particular order) the Hessie and Fourth of July Area (jumping-off point to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area), East Portal (to access the James Peak Wilderness); Rainbow Lakes and Caribou Townsite (amazing ghost towns and old mines), Niwot Ridge (waaaay above treeline with spectacular views), West Magnolia (a complex of old logging and mining roads west of Nederland), the Boy Scout Trails (east of Nederland off the Magnolia Road), Gold Lake to Jamestown (mines, logging roads), Gold Hill and the Switzerland Trail (woods, meadows, mines, and a historic railroad grade), the Bunce School Road to Peaceful Valley, Camp Dick to Buchanan Pass, Allenspark, Coulson Gulch and the Johnny Park Road, Homestead Meadows, and Winiger Ridge.
Click here to watch a BCHA Trail Ride from Hessie to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Video by Colin Bovet.
Colorado State Parks’ Equestrian Trails
Equestrians throughout the state have many diverse choices for trail riding in Colorado State Parks and several parks have public corrals for those camping with horses. The closest State Park for Boulder equestrians is Golden Canyon, which has many miles of horse trails and even a new lodge (“The Harmsen Ranch”) where you can stay in civilized comfort with up to eight of your friends, while your horses stay in a nice corral system in a meadow nearby. Click here to look for State Parks with horse-friendly trails: http://www.parks.state.co.us/
Harmsen Ranch Flier
And remember, there are lots of places “close to” Boulder County that offer great riding. To find out more about each of these, as well as a lot more trails right here in Boulder County, please acquire your very own copy of both volumes of Happy Trails! Click here to order now
BCHA works continually to maintain the equestrian voice in the many trail legislative discussions that are being held throughout the county. We sure could use your help! Check out some opportunities for you to show your support for keeping trails open to equestrians!
National Trails Day and other Trail Maintenance Projects
A listing of available trail building and maintenance projects with Boulder County Parks and Open Space can be found on their volunteer page and ours. Also check in with BCHA and/or BATCO (www.bouldertrails.org) to find other trail work opportunities.
Boulder City Open Space & Mountain Parks: West Trail Study Area
The City of Boulder has just completed its West Trail Study Area process, having convened a new group of stakeholders to determine the fate of existing trails, future trails, and off-trail use of this very large area. Popular trails in the block include the Mesa Trail, South Boulder Creek Trail, Shanahan Ridge, Bear Canyon, Flagstaff, Chautauqua, Mt Sanitas, Wonderland Lake, and Foothills… all the Mountain Parks Trails as well as the foothills trails. Unfortunately for horse people, we gave up a lot of our equestrian habitat in the spirit of cooperation and got very little in exchange. You can learn more about this project, and which trails are open to horses, by clicking on this link to the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, West Trail Study Area.
It is estimated that the West TSA process entailed over 20 hours a month per person for more than a year. If every volunteer on the committee put in the same amount of time, that came to almost 3,500 hours of citizens’ time spent on determining the fate of trails west of Broadway. If staff and the alternate(s)’ time is counted, you can more than double that time, to, say, 7,000 hours. Give it a time-value-of-money of $25 an hour, throw in the consultant’s fees, and we got a project “worth” around a quarter of a million bucks. Was it worth it?
Nope. We did achieve two extraordinary things: after a full year of negotiations and discussions, the entire Community Collaborative Group and the Open Space Board of Trustees reached consensus on the horse recommendations. However, in its infinite wisdom and very finite knowledge, the Boulder City Council threw out the “horse regs” entirely, denying us historic off-trail access, closing several key trails and favorite haunts for horses, and preventing staff from even “looking” for additional horse trailer parking in the West TSA. Why? their actions were entirely arbitrary and punitive, to punish horses and horse people for being politically incorrect in the People’s Republic of Boulder.
The only consolation is that many other people are angry about the process as well. We can only hope that the next TSA process will be less gruesome. And — make no mistake — OSMP is gearing up right now for the “North TSA” (from Linden Drive all the way to Rabbit Mountain, and east toward Longmont), followed by the “East TSA” (from Longmont all the way around to Erie, Lafayette, Louisville, and east Boulder). There is no rest for the weary in this regard. If we don’t participate, we will surely lose even more equestrian access. We need a new volunteer to work with OSMP. If you care about equestrian issues, please step up and volunteer to help, provide input, give moral support, come to meetings, and stay in touch. As always, please feel free to contact Suzanne for more information about trails and public issues. 303-485-2162, email@example.com
The Feeder Canal Trail Bites the Dust
After more than 30 years of hearing all the pros and cons, in September 2009 the Board of County Commissioners finally gave up on a proposed multi-use trail along the Boulder Creek Feeder Supply Canal. For some, this trail would have provided a continuous off-road link between Boulder and Lyons, 13 miles of picturesque recreational amenity offering sweeping views of the plains and mountains. Others saw the trail as an abomination that would deprive its neighbors of their privacy and bring urban problems of crime, vandalism, and trespass to a rural area. Some were concerned that the trail would compromise water quality for the City of Boulder. Planners statewide saw the Canal as a missing link in the Front Range Trail, which may extend some day from New Mexico to Wyoming. Some environmentalists were worried that the trail would inconvenience wildlife living near it. For others, the trail posed unacceptable safety risks that the City and County appeared unwilling to address. The Canal’s owner was worried that the trail would inconvenience its maintenance operations.
In the end, the owner of the Canal, Northern Water, trumped all other parties by rescinding its trail development guidelines and making it clear that “permission to use the feeder canal for any part of the trail is unlikely to be forthcoming.” Probably nobody will ever know all the politics, back-room wrangling and deal-making that went into this decision. BCHA discussed the Feeder Canal Trail at length many, many times. Years ago, we provided written documentation that horses don’t even carry the micro-organisms the water-quality folks were worried that we might introduce, thereby successfully convincing the planners to include equestrians in the trail mix. We offered ideas on how to accommodate horses and other trail users so that safety issues would be minimized. And we insisted that, if the trail was built, it should have designated horse trailer parking at all trailheads. Finally, we argued that the Canal trail should not be considered as a replacement for any other planned north-south trails in Boulder County, and should connect to them all to form a meaningful trail system. Whatever. The trail proposal died.
Boulder County Regional Trails
We hope that now the Feeder Canal Trail is dead, Boulder County will redouble its efforts and resources to build other long-sought regional trails, especially along old railroad grades such as 1) the one west of Highway 36, 2) the one from Boulder to Erie, 3) the one from Longmont to Lyons, and 4) the one from Longmont to Mead. These alignments will also provide “sweeping views of the plains and mountains,” will also have minimal environmental impact, and will make excellent – and safe – off road trail connections for all nonmotorized users. But these trails need a “champion” who won’t just take no for an answer. They need YOU to make them happen! Please contact me if you would like to help champion those trail alignments – or others. Suzanne Webel, 303-485-2162, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ride a Mile in My Boots
On Sunday, June 14, 2009, members of Boulder County’s Trail Stewardship teams – equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners – experienced the trail from a different perspective. Participants spent part of the morning riding horses and mountain bikes, walking and running, on a trail at Joder Arabian Ranch, a 347-acre ranch located in North Boulder, as part of Boulder County Parks and Open Spaces Partnership Initiative. Community leaders from these different recreational user groups gained first-hand knowledge about what different groups desire in a trail and why. Representatives from each group shared their perspectives and concerns, discussed their differences, and conceptualized possible solutions. Trail etiquette was reviewed as well.
Background: The Trail Stewardship program consists of seven teams who have volunteered to maintain some of Boulder County Parks and Open Space trails. Maintenance work includes light pruning, reshaping and restoring trail sections, constructing and maintaining water control devices, rut grading, weed pulling and possible modification to encourage on-trail use. Trail stewardship teams for the 2009 season included Backpacker Magazine, Boulder Area Trails Coalition, Boulder County Horse Association, Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, Boulder Trail Runners, Oskar Blues and Redstone Cyclery. The original “Ride a Mile” concept was initiated by a grant written by BCHA’s Barb Haaland-Michaels and was partially funded through the 2009 Boulder Office of County Commissioners Volunteer Program Enrichment Awards. It was organized by Karen Imbierowicz, Partnership Coordinator Boulder County Parks and Open Space.
Summary and Next Steps: From the new appreciation of other recreational groups’ idiosyncrasies and particulars on the trail, a very positive outlook on sharing trails was created with all groups working together to establish what they thought might be workable solutions. A simplified handout is being created regarding trail etiquette to be distributed at bike shops and hopefully at trailheads. Currently there are at least 3 different handouts from 3 different organizations and it may be more effective to have one listing the most important things for users to remember. There was a discussion about classifying and labeling the difficulty of the trails. Another positive would be posting trail conditions on the websites of all recreational groups. The possibility of requiring trail infractors to participate in a “Ride a Mile…” type of event got a nod from everyone. All were in favor of holding an annual “Ride a Mile in My Boots” event. Greg Joder offered to host next year’s event. Possible 2010 participants include: bike patrollers, park hosts, birders, organization spokes people and journalists. Contact Pat Jarvis, 303-912-6738, email@example.com, for more information on Ride a Mile in My Boots.
Proposed Mountain Bike Trail from Eldorado Canyon to Walker Ranch Eldorado Canyon State Park in conjunction with Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) is currently exploring the possibility of a mountain bike trail that would connect Eldorado Canyon with the Walker Ranch trail. Yes, you read that correctly — a “mountain bike trail” — not necessarily a shared-use trail, or a multiple-use trail, but possibly a mountain bike ONLY trail. The Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE) is gathering the opinions of Boulder area climbers — and others — regarding this possible mountain bike trail. The exact location of the trail has yet to be determined, but will involve both existing and new sections of trail to minimize erosion and potential conflict between different recreational user groups. Two obvious roadblocks to this plan are financing the construction of new trail on steep terrain and negotiating access through Boulder Open Space. Please let ACE know your opinions!
Inasmuch as there have been indications that BMA’s trail proposal might actually exclude equestrians from the trail BCHA built because their design for bikes would not be “sustainable” for horses, you are urged to participate NOW in the current ACE survey, and ALSO to contact the State Park directly at 303-441-3950. Tell them you want increased access for equestrians to Eldorado Canyon State Park! If you check the comments that have already come in, you will notice the effects of a very focused, aggressive promotional campaign on the part of BMA and the mountain bike community. Come on, equestrians! Get involved! BCHA built the original trail in Eldorado Canyon — now we need YOU to participate in preserving (and possibly enhancing) our access to it. Vote/Comment by going to this website – then see the other Votes/Comments. Please scan the “see votes/comments” link for mine. But mine isn’t enough — they need to hear clearly from MANY members of the equestrian community. Please spread the word among other horse people. Each response is a vote, and if we don’t get enough votes, you know what may happen.
BCHA Adopts the Switzerland Trail at Caribou Ranch!
“Our” trail is officially called the Delonde Trail, named after one of the families that homesteaded the area in the 1800′s and whose classic wood house still stands today in a meadow at Caribou, in mute tribute to their hard work making a living from this high mountain valley. Our initial commitment lasts two years, during which time we need to put in a minimum of four trail days. We agree to remove trash along the trail, monitor weeds and erosion, note missing or vandalized signs, benches, and picnic tables, and look out for other hazards and problems. In addition, BCHA has earmarked funds for future trail construction at Caribou Ranch, and has a firm relationship with the Roundup Riders of the Rockies’ Heritage and Trails Foundation which has agreed to provide additional funding should Boulder County request it. We need volunteers to be our official “trail adopters”! This is a fun and satisfying way to show Boulder County that we are willing to be good stewards of the public lands we all enjoy. Please call BCHA’s stalwart Caribou volunteer Gail Matheson to sign up now! 303-642-7739.
An Invitation to Equestrians from Boulder County Parks & Open Space
You can make a difference as a Boulder County Parks & Open Space Park Host while riding some of the most beautiful open spaces in the west. Give back to the trails you love while patrolling, being a uniformed presence, and answering visitors’ questions. More information &/or to register: contact Michael Bauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-678-6219