National Forest Foundation

Friends of Wilderness Repairs Back Country Vehicle Ruts

NFF Grant Partners and Projects


Friends of Wilderness, with the help of a matching grant from the National Forest Foundation, repaired a six-mile stretch of the combined Continental Divide/Wyoming/1101 trails in the Routt National Forest in northwest Colorado. This badly braided trail section originally resulted from cross country vehicle travel to popular Luna Lake in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s prior to most of that area being designated federal protected Mount Zirkel Wilderness in 1964. Nature was unable to repair the braids in the 50-plus years since.

We repaired most heavily impacted stretch of trail during the summers of 2018 and 2019 by utilizing a combination of volunteer and contracted resources. FOW volunteers were supplemented by corporate and community volunteers and 400 hours of contracted youth conservation corps crews. The long-lasting damage was partially repaired with combinations of rock and log waterbars, check dams and fill dirt. In addition, all trail braids were “brushed” with branches and rocks to prevent hikers, hunters and equestrians from using them.

Trail braids.

Trail ruts and braids

Intangible outcomes include the public becoming aware of the reason for the trail damage – ruts from yesteryear’s cross country vehicle traffic – and the substantial effort required to rectify the damage. Even current U.S. Forest Service officials were unaware of the reason for the damage. The project resulted in significant local press coverage including a front page article in the Steamboat Pilot & Today daily newspaper.

FOW is extremely grateful to the NFF and its Matching Awards Program, along with Northwest Colorado’s Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund and individual and corporate donors for making this project possible. FOW is an all volunteer organization providing stewardship for three wilderness areas in NW Colorado – Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops.

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