Plan to head to backcountry? Check on Forest Service road closures

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Call before you go

Hikers, all-terrain vehicle riders and cyclists planning an excursion in the greater Big Red Park area northeast of Columbine in the Routt National Forest, as well as closer to Steamboat Springs on Rabbit Ears Pass, are advised to call in advance to get the latest road and trail information. The Hahn’s Peak Ranger District office can be reached at 970-870-2299.

Current and pending road closures in the Routt National Forest

Buffalo Pass Road (Forest Service Road 60) is open.

These trails will remain open for the season:

■ Portions of 1101 Wyoming Trail from FSR 400 (Seedhouse Road) to FSR 44 (Diamond Park)

■ Portion of 1189 North Fork Trail from FSR 400 (Seedhouse Road) to FSR 44 (Diamond Park)

Current road and trail closures because of logging:

■ FSR 251 and associated spur roads including the 303 road series; rolling closures as work is implemented (Harrison Creek area of Rabbit Ears Pass)

■ FSR 505/520 in the Big Red Park area

■ Portions of FSR 1199 from Junction 1101 to intersection of FSR 520 near Big Red Park. This closure is in conjunction with the FSR 505/520 closure.

■ FSR 310 (summit of Buffalo Pass to Fish Creek Reservoir)

■ FSR 1156 Prospector Trail from Routt County Road 129 to the east; from Routt County Road 129 to FSR 410

Anticipated/upcoming road and trail closures*:

■ FSR 433 and 44 in the Lost Dog area north of Seedhouse Campground

■ FSR 430 (Hinman)

■ FSR 508 (Elk Horn Mountain area)

■ FSR 311 (Dumont Lake area)

■ FSR 511 (Crane Park area)

■ FSR 412/507 (Whiskey Park area)

*Some roads/trails have opened temporarily but will be re-closed in the near future.

— Families with children who want to take the starter backcountry hike to Fishhook Lake from Rabbit Ears Pass this summer might want to fit that excursion into the next couple of weekends before the jarring Forest Service road that leads to the trailhead is closed for hazard tree removal.

Forest Service Road 311, which leads from the historic U.S. Highway 40 marker near Dumont Lake to the Base Camp Trailhead about three miles away, is among 10 forest roads in the Hahn’s Peak Ranger District that are either closed or soon to be closed while logging operations take place. Exactly when FSR 311 closes depends upon the pace of similar work on a nearby road.

Fortunately, another key forest access road, FSR 60 leading to Buffalo Pass and access to the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area close to Steamboat, recently has reopened since the completion of a significant number of new runoff culverts.

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos said this week that after back-to-back summers in 2010 and 2011 when wet conditions delayed road repairs and tree-removal contracts, much of that work has been condensed into 2012.

“A lot of this work was actually scheduled for last year, and we weren’t able to (get it done), and this year, because of the longer season, we’re trying to take advantage of that,” Voos said.

The closures reach from roads in far North Routt popular among all-terrain vehicle and dirt bike enthusiasts, to Fish Creek Reservoir south of Buffalo Pass, to Harrison Creek on the south side of U.S. 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass.

Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District Recreation Manager Kent Foster said Monday that his office is working closely with organizers of upcoming mountain biking events to ensure they have desirable routes. The upcoming events include this weekend’s Big Mountain Enduro Series race on Buffalo Pass and the July 28 Ride 4 Yellow fundraiser that leaves from the Dumont Lake area.

Foster also said his ranger district is trying to manage the timing of different segments of tree removal on a rolling basis to preserve access as much as possible. In other cases, Forest Service officials are taking a close look at whether they can reopen closed roads and trails before all of the logging work is complete.

“We try to minimize the amount that is closed at any given time if it’s logistically possible,” Foster said.

An example is in North Routt, where portions of the 1101 Wyoming Trail and the 1189 North Fork Trail leading to FSR 44 in Diamond Park along the North Fork of the Elk River are being left open for the remainder of the summer even though logging operations are not yet complete.

Already closed is FSR 310, which leads from the summit of Buffalo Pass to Fish Creek Reservoir. Road closures apply to bicycles as well as motorized vehicles, Foster said. This weekend’s Big Mountain Enduro Series race will avoid FSR 310 and travel south (away from the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area) on the Wyoming Trail, then to the Fish Creek Trail to link to the Mountain View Trail and the descent of Steamboat Ski Area, Foster said.

Foster said the Ride 4 Yellow mountain bike fundraiser will start at the base of FSR 311 and follow a trail along an irrigation ditch that parallels the shores of Dumont Lake before climbing up to the 1101 Wyoming Trail to the Fish Creek Trail and then the Mountain View trail.

During the upcoming closure of FSR 311, general mountain bikers and hikers who don’t mind the additional three miles of distance can take the same route to visit the area of Fishhook, Elmo and Round lakes.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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