Summit County will be building a new trail between Silverthorne and the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina open spaces this summer, creating the first natural surface connection between the town and the county’s wider trail network. The new section is a small piece of the county’s grander ambition to create an uninterrupted trail route between Frisco and Silverthorne.
The planned natural-surface trail would run south and east from an access point at the edge of the town’s southwest corner, through county and town open space, bisecting Buffalo Mountain Drive before veering southwest and linking to the Salt Lick trail system on U.S. Forest Service land.
Hikers and mountain bikers will be able to use the new 1.5 miles of trail to travel between the hilltop neighborhoods and town. The new path would have about 700 feet of elevation gain from the town to the top of the hill.
“It’s not going to be a flat trail by any means. It’s a climbing trail,” county Open Space & Trails resource specialist Michael Wurzel said. “The nice thing about it is that this trail will melt out a little earlier in the year and make for a nice early season trail for this area.”
A series of deals over the years between the county, Silverthorne and other stakeholders — such as the Continental Divide Land Trust, which has conservation easements on the land — helped create the requisite contiguous land for the trail.
At the county commissioner’s regular work session Tuesday morning, Wurzel and Open Space & Trails director Brian Lorch met commissioners to review a proposed change to the open space management plan that would allow mountain biking on the trail through the easement up to Buffalo Mountain Drive. That was not feasible due to resource concerns when the trail originally was envisioned in 2005.
Advancements to trail engineering and design have addressed those concerns, and there is no known opposition to building the mountain bike trail. The trail also would respect existing modality restrictions, as the mountain bike trail would convert back to a pedestrian trail west of the road. Mountain bikers would connect with the Salt Lick Trail system to the south, where bike trails still are being built and expanded.
To help build the trail, the county is working with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to bring in young service volunteers. That work is expected to start this month.
Meanwhile, the county still has to work with the Forest Service to ensure proper link-up of the county trail to the Salt Lick trail. The county also will have to commit to maintain and repair the trail, which Lorch supports.
“I think it will be a very well-loved trail,” Lorch said. “It gets people out of town and into nature, and the plan is to get a whole trail looping around Silverthorne.”
Lorch added that he saw the trail as the first big step toward creating a contiguous trail route between Frisco and Silverthorne, which would run along Interstate 70 before meeting with the Frisco trail network, perhaps through the Meadow Creek trailhead. It would become the first official natural-surface connection between the towns and one that does not involve motor vehicles.