Crater Trail On West Side Of Rocky Mountain National Park Will Remain Closed
Due to excessive erosion and damage to sensitive natural and cultural resources, the Crater Trail, a short trail located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, will remain closed to use for the remainder of this year. The Crater Trail is a one-mile long, dead end trail that is normally open to visitor use after mid-August each year following the bighorn sheep lambing season. The trail leads to the top of the Continental Divide and provides an overview of “The Crater” located on the west side of Specimen Mountain.
Park staff are considering closing the Crater Trail permanently. The trail was never designed and constructed. Instead, it evolved from an informal footpath. Unfortunately, the trail is not sustainable in its current location and is subject to significant erosion which is damaging sensitive cultural and natural resources, including alpine tundra. Improving the trail in its current location is not desirable because the cost of long term maintenance would be excessive. The trail leads directly to the Specimen Mountain Research Natural Area (RNA). There are three RNAs in the park. These specially designated areas are an integral part of the park’s designation as an International Biosphere Reserve. RNAs contain prime examples of natural resources and processes that have value for baseline and long-term studies for scientific and educational purposes. Providing direct access runs counter to the purposes for which the Specimen Mountain RNA was established.
While park staff considered relocating the Crater Trail to a more sustainable location, doing so would adversely impact natural and cultural resources, and would have run counter to the purposes for the Specimen Mountain RNA. The Mount Ida Trail, located across the valley from the Crater Trail, offers a similar visitor experience without the impacts and encumbrances of the Crater Trail.
Park staff welcome comments on the proposal to permanently close the Crater Trail. Please provide your written comments no later than September 30, 2014. The preferred method for providing comments is to use the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ROMO – from the home page click on the “Crater Trail Project.”
For further information on Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.