Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch measures divide locals, visitors | VailDaily.com

Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch measures divide locals, visitors

It’s been two weeks since the new reserved parking and shuttle system have been in place

A sign in the Quandary Peak trailhead parking lot on Aug, 4 tells hikers about the new reserved parking system. Interstate Parking is partnering with the town of Breckenridge and Summit County to manage parking at the Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trailheads.
Photo by Elaine Collins

Earlier this year, officials from Summit County, the town of Breckenridge and the U.S. Forest Service came up with solutions to mitigate the overcrowded parking at the trailheads of Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch: reserved parking and a free shuttle system, both of which were implemented July 30.

Two weeks later, the new measures are in full swing, and it seems most visitors don’t have any big issues related to the program.

When Kevin Mottura and Jennifer Majetic were planning a vacation to Breckenridge, the two added Quandary Peak to their itinerary. The hike would be their first ascent of a 14,000-foot-peak, something Mottura said he’s always wanted to experience. While researching the hike, Mottura said he stumbled on information regarding the new measures.

“I was just Googling,” Mottura said. “AllTrails was saying that we needed a parking reservation. So we just Googled that, and it said there was a free shuttle over here, so that seemed easier.”

The couple said the news didn’t cause any consternation. Majetic said they’d hiked the Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, where it’s recommended to ride the free shuttle, though she noted they found parking close enough to that trailhead. According to the attraction’s website, a reservation is currently needed to hike the area.

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Mottura said that there are similar measures in place at other popular recreation areas.

“They have timed entries for national parks, too,” he said. “We knew that was going on everywhere.”

Both Mottura and Majetic said that when they heard there wasn’t enough parking at the trailhead, they decided it was easier to ride the shuttle rather than find a parking permit.

A Summit Express shuttle carries hikers to and from the Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trailheads Aug. 4. The shuttle, along with reserved parking, is part of an effort by multiple stakeholder groups to mitigate public safety issues at both trailheads.
Photo by Elaine Collins

The situation is different for locals. Nick Johnson, who lives near Breckenridge, said the new measures are prohibiting him from accessing the Quandary Peak trailhead. Johnson said he hiked the trail a few times last summer and likes to do so every other week after work during the summer.

“My big thing is, basically, because of the way that I have used the Quandary trailhead in the past, it seems like I’m not really allowed to use it anymore,” Johnson said. “As I understand it, the parking permit for the second time slot of the day ends at 7:30 p.m. I usually hike after work, meaning I’m starting around 5 p.m. and out there until 9 p.m. or later, which as I understand it, puts me at risk of getting a ticket.”

Johnson noted that the free shuttle system currently doesn’t operate that late, so he could use it to get to the trailhead but would need to coordinate a ride for when he heads back home.

Johnson said Quandary Peak is one of his favorites to climb because of the amount of elevation gain in a short span of time. He noted that the trailhead sees a lot of traffic — particularly on the weekends, which is why he usually visits the area in the evening on weekdays.

Other hikers, like Wade McCaugherty, have no hard feelings about the new measures. McCaugherty, who is from Broomfield, hopped on the shuttle at 6 a.m. to hike the Quandary Peak trail on Friday.

When planning his trip to the county, McCaugherty said he learned about the new measures through AllTrails but noted that not everyone is getting the same information.

“I think there are people that didn’t hear about it or don’t know about it; so when they get up there, they park, and then they get fined,” he said. “There was a couple with their two kids that asked me if it was alright to park up there, and I just told them what I read online — that there’s a fine somewhere around $100. I told them that I parked at the Airport (Road) parking lot and grabbed the shuttle.”

This is one issue local leaders are still figuring out. During a Summit Board of County Commissioners’ work session meeting Tuesday, Christine Zenel, resource specialist for Summit County’s Open Space and Trails department, suggested that the county and all of its partners zero in on where their information campaign leaves gaps.

“People are getting their information mostly from outside sources — 14ers.com and AllTrails, those third-party platforms — so I think we talked about dialing more into our marketing strategy to make sure they’re getting the right information,” Zenel said.

A parking violation is pictured on the hood of a car near the McCullough Gulch and Quandary Peak trailheads Aug. 4. Overcrowded parking at both trailheads has led to a number of public safety issues, and if not parked in designated reserved spots, visitors will be ticketed.
Photo by Elaine Collins

Summit County Undersheriff Peter Haynes reported that his department has issued about 90 violations so far — and that most are to hikers not from the area.

“We’re trying to track in-state, out-of-state and in-county (violations),” Haynes said. “No one in county — that has a vehicle registered in the county — has been issued a citation on the road, which is great. At least locally, they’re getting the message. About 65% of the tickets out now are definitely out of state — and if we surmise all of the rental plates that we’re writing to, it’s probably as high as 80% of out-of-state people being cited parking on county roads. That’s definitely the demographic we’re missing.”

Summit County Director of Communications Nicole Valentine said she and her team are working off a comprehensive spreadsheet to ensure that various platforms have updated information about the new measures. The team is also working with Google.

In addition to spreading the message to a broader audience, the team is ironing out other small kinks — but for the most part, everyone was in agreement that the measures seem to be successful at mitigating some of the area’s public safety issues.

“This was fast and hard and difficult, but this to me feels like a big success,” Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “I think all of us would say that. I hope that you all feel that way. I know that it felt rushed, but we knew this was coming for years as we continued to see that Quandary was getting busier and busier.”

A sign sits near a parking lot close to the McCullough Gulch and Quandary Peak treailheads Aug. 4 instructing hikers not to park on county roads. Overcrowded parking at both trailheads has led to a number of public safety issues, and if not parked in designated reserved spots, visitors will be ticketed.
Photo by Elaine Collins

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