Find Your Fourteener - Launching a Path Forward on Colorado's Iconic Peaks
Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, known as “Fourteeners,” are legendary among hiking aficionados. Every season people make 260,000 trips up one or more Fourteeners, making these some of the most popular hikes in the country. But, the hordes that trek to these coveted summits are having a big impact on the fragile alpine tundra and other ecosystems that flank these peaks. Local trail groups are unable to keep pace with the growing impacts as more and more people tick “hiking a Fourteener” off of their bucket list. The problem is particularly acute on the 48 Fourteeners that lie on Colorado’s National Forests.
These ‘rogue’ trails are not properly designed and impact the alpine plant communities, denude landscapes, create significant gullies and erosion, and ultimately disrupt ecosystem function.
The NFF’s Find Your Fourteener campaign hopes to increase the pace and scale of improvements to sustainable recreation opportunities on Colorado’s Fourteeners through:
- the development of new partnerships and funding,
- building local capacity, and
- increasing the pace and scale of on-the-ground trail improvement projects.
Improving trails on Colorado’s Fourteeners is not a new idea; groups including the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado-based youth corps, and many other conservation and volunteer organizations have been involved with these trails for decades. These groups are now coming together, along with the National Forest Foundation, to more strategically address the needs of Fourteeners state-wide
In 2015, CFI released a “Colorado Fourteeners Report Card” that rated Fourteener trail and ecosystem conditions, determining that more than $24 million in baseline investments are needed to create sustainable routes to the summits of all of Colorado’s Fourteeners. NFF will work with partners to tackle many of these projects in a tiered and strategic effort, and that will prioritize “front country,” “mid country,” and “back country” peaks.
When people first began climbing these sky-scraping peaks, Colorado had about half a million residents. Now, more than half that many people reach the summit of the state’s Fourteeners every year. Those early adventurers likely didn’t worry about fragile alpine plans or watershed impacts. However, today it’s critical that we work together to restore and protect these special places and ensure that one hundred years from now, new generations of adventurers can ford the same pristine creeks, skirt trout-filled mountain lakes, and feel the same sense of accomplishments that early mountaineers did.
The NFF’s Find Your Fourteener campaign is a long-term effort to ensure that these enduring peaks remain healthy, accessible and inviting for decades to come. As Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service said, “The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future.” That future is now and the responsibility is ours.
Mount Elbert (with the Leadville District of the Pike & San Isabel National Forests, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Wildland Restoration Volunteers, Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Correctional Industries)
Quandary Peak (with the Dillon District of the White River National Forest, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Colorado Mountain Club)
Pikes Peak (with the Pikes Peak District of the Pike & San Isabel National Forests, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado Mountain Club, Mile High Youth Corps)
Rock Rigging Training (with Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Southwest Conservation Corps, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Mile High Youth Corps)
Alpine Stewards Training (with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado)
Featured Blog PostS:
May 4, 2017: Sustainable Access for Quandary Peak