Hike of the Week: Be sure to observe winter trail closures | VailDaily.com

Hike of the Week: Winter trail closures are important for preserving wildlife

By Nathan Boyer-Rechlin
Hike of the Week
Winter sports enthusiasts have already headed into the backcountry for sking and snowshoeing, but be sure to observe trail closures if you're one of those people.
Special to the Daily

Winter certainly didn’t waste any time in coming to our mountains this year. As Opening Day at Vail Mountain creeps closer — Nov. 15, if you’re not up with the times — many just couldn’t wait to get out there and have already ventured into the backcountry on skis and snowshoes.

And plenty of the valley’s favorite summer trails double as great spots for winter sports. However, a few local trails close for the winter season. Usually, the closures protect key habitats for wildlife during the stressful winter months and elk calving season in the spring and early summer.

As people who like to get outside and enjoy nature while also breaking a sweat, we like to think that our activities are low-impact on the environment. However, even our presence can be a stressor to wildlife. A recent study from the University of California, Berkeley found that when human impacts — roads, development, and yes, even hiking trails — stress wildlife, animals may become more nocturnal in order to avoid human contact.

For species that have adapted over thousands of years to certain patterns of activity, changes in this behavior can put prey species more at risk of predation or it make it more challenging for local predators to hunt.

The winter months present an additional stress: cold and scarce food.  In this most challenging of seasons, energy preservation is key. If wildlife feels threatened or stressed, this can significantly decrease their odds of survival, especially for younger animals.

Trails in Avon, Edwards and Minturn with upcoming winter closures are listed below. For a complete list, including spring closures, visit Walking Mountains trail closures landing page.

Whiskey Creek Trail (USFS #2349)

Closes Nov. 23

Evercrisp Trail (USFS)

Closes Nov. 23

Minturn Mini Mile

Closes Dec. 1

Eastern Hillside (USFS #2347)

Closes December 1

West Avon Preserve Trails (except Our Backyard & PB&J)

Close Dec. 15

Knob Hill (USFS #2021)

Closes Dec. 15

Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the community outreach coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. For more information on this hike and others with Walking Mountains, you can reach him at 970-827-9725, ext. 144, and nathanbr@walkingmountains.org.