Many trails not quite ready for hiking |

Many trails not quite ready for hiking

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Daily file photoLocals want to get outside in the off-season, but some local hiking trails are closed to protect vegetation and wildlife giving birth.

VAIL” Harold Kiney couldn’t wait to trade in his snow shoes for hiking boots.

“Snowshoeing is alright, but it’s not the same,” he said. “You freeze your butt off.”

Kiney has been using the Grouse Creek Trail near Minturn for a few days now. He’s not much of a skier, and hiking is why he lives here.

“It’s our time for fun now,” Kiney said.

It’s not even May, but with snow having melted off many hillsides, the official unofficial hiking season is starting.

Trail experts with the Forest Service are warning those eager to hit woods to take it easy for a while. Many trails are closed and will be until June and July. As for the open trails, well, it’s not such a good idea to try some of them out in mud season.

“Mountain bikes are the main culprits, and you’ll see those folks going through a wet area, and you’ll end up with a trench on the path that will get deeper and deeper,” trail crew leader Mike Bartholow said.

Thus starts a long chain reaction that can damage the forest. Water channels down those trenches instead of moving off the trail. Water pools, erodes the path and creates gullies. The damage can be difficult and expensive to repair. The water can also wash sediment into streams and rivers.

Mountain bikes can be really damaging, but many people don’t realize that hiking and running can hurt the trails too, Bartholow said.

“Footprints in the mud can cause deep holes where water can pool,” Bartholow said.

Another big reason for the trail closures is the elk calving and migration season.

The elk need space to nurse and raise calves, and humans have a natural way of ruining that, Bartholow said.

“When they see you, they’re going to move and spend a lot of energy avoiding you,” Bartholow said. “Especially with the calves, you don’t want them to be stressed and spending energy avoiding people. They need to spend the energy getting stronger.”

The closures are enforced, and you may find forest service workers hanging out at trailheads.

“You could receive a citation, but we’re more about education,” Bartholow said.

If you do happen to come upon wet spots while hiking, it’s best to walk through it instead of going around.

“The worst thing to do is ride around if you’re on a bike,” Bartholow said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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