BLM opens Beall Trail on Emerald Mountain outside Steamboat one week early

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— The Bureau of Land Management office in Craig has announced the lifting of seasonal closures on the Emerald Mountain Special Recreation Management Area just south of Steamboat Springs beginning a week earlier than usual.

For avid mountain bikers, that means a little more spice in their life beginning Saturday.

Up until Saturday, the lengthy Ridge Trail and areas to its north will have been the only portions of the Recreation Management Area available on upper Emerald Mountain while other trails were part of a seasonal closure that runs from Dec. 1 to June 30. The closure is intended to protect wintering and calving elk. BLM field manager Wendy Reynolds said unseasonably warm weather early this summer allowed her office to advance the lifting of the closure.

“After discussions with (Colorado Parks and Wildlife), all public lands at the Emerald Mountain SRMA will be open to recreational use,” she said in a news release this week.

For area mountain bikers, that means they’ll be able to combine sections of the Ridge and Beall trails for an easily accessible loop with plenty of variety, Paul Matheny said. He is a member of the board of directors of Routt County Riders and writes about the ethical approach to one of his favorite sports.

Cyclists can access the Beall (pronounced "bell") Trail from downtown Steamboat by climbing Emerald Mountain and connecting via the Quarry Mountain Trail. But for cyclists with limited time on a summer evening, it makes sense to put the bike in the car rack and drive out on Routt County Road 33 (Twentymile Road) to the lefthand turn onto Routt County Road 45 (Cow Creek Road), where the Ridge and Beall trails begin and end very close to each other. The combined length of the two trails is about 11.6 miles. The Rotary Trail also begins from that area.

“The Ridge Trail is south facing and climbs through the oak, whereas the Beall Trail is more in conifer forest,” Matheny said. “You can climb the Ridge Trail and you can always ride back down. But if you ride up Ridge from Routt County Road 45, when you get to the top where it connects with Quarry Mountain, it also intersects the Beall Trail. It allows you to descend and come back down to 45 (Cow Creek Road). Those trailheads are just 2 miles apart.”

The Beall Trail is named after former Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall, who for 13 years served as chairman of the Emerald Mountain Partnership. The partnership played a major role in negotiating the land exchange between the State Land Board and the BLM, a deal that opened the path to creating the Recreation Management Area. At 4,193 acres, it was the largest land swap in Colorado history.

The International Mountain Biking Association confirmed Tuesday that members of its trail-building team would visit Steamboat from July 11 to 14 to conduct a trail-building school in conjunction with Routt County Riders. It will involve a classroom session and an actual trail-building exercise.

Matheny said the workshop should benefit the local cycling community on several levels, including increasing the level of trust public land managers in the area have in the ability of the local group to design and execute successful projects.

“It should expand our local volunteer workforce and build an appreciation for the nuances of building trails,” he said.

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

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