Mountain bikers are pumping up their tires in anticipation of Rocky Mountain National Park opening up a piece of trail to off-road cycling for the first time later this year.
It’s a small slice of the 415-square-mile park: only two miles of the East Shore Trail, a 6 mile hiking and equestrian path that runs north-south along the shore of Shadow Mountain Lake. But nonetheless, it’s a win for the mountain bikers who have been advocating for access within the fourth most popular national park and Colorado’s largest.
The National Park Service’s amendment to the parks special regulations on Friday follows extensive public involvement, which included conservationists, off-road cyclists and hikers.
"Most of Rocky Mountain National Park's trails are in designated wilderness where mountain biking is prohibited," said Kyle Patterson, park spokeswoman. "This was a unique situation in that this particular section of the East Shore Trail is outside of wilderness."
The consideration drew sharp criticism from hikers who believed that mountain bikers would disrupt the serene and quiet environment, especially during the summer months when the low-grade trail is most popular, according to the amendment summary. And one commenter even pointed to a study that found elk and deer show higher probabilities of flight response around ATV and mountain bikes than hiking and horseback riding.
However, the National Parks Service in response to both points said the agency will mitigate conflicts that arise when they arise. And adjacent to the trail is Shadow Mountain Lake, where motorboats and jet skis are allowed, far louder than cyclists.
Trail proponents, including the Headwaters Trails Alliance, will complete work on the trail before it opens to bicycle use. The trail area is not part of the park’s designated wilderness and a quarter-mile section of it will be rerouted to an undeveloped area to improve public safety, avoid sensitive natural and cultural resources, and provide sustainability of the trail.
An opening day has not been finalized.
Most national parks allow road cycling, but mountain bikers have been kept out of a fair amount, with the exception of California’s Redwoods National Park, Arizona’s Saguaro National Park and a handful of others.