The last couple of years the Summit Fat Tire Society has concentrated on doing basic maintenance on our adopt-a-trail section of the Colorado Trail. We care for the section from the North Fork of the Swan to Horseshoe gulch. This trail has stayed in pretty good shape considering that it wasn’t designed with MTBs in mind and the heavy use it gets.
There are some trouble spots though; the switchbacks from the top of West Ridge and Muggins Gulch get hammered from braking bumps – an impact unique to mountain bikes. In the long run we’d like to address this with realignments to slow riders more gradually before they get to the tight switchbacks, but that’s a big project and takes some regulatory clearances before we can build new trail.
What we have concentrated on is a steep section between Muggins and Horseshoe gulch. This section, well out of character with the rest of the trail, is steep enough and down the fall line enough that folks skid on descents, slip tires going up, and widen the trail to avoid the ruts. Water funnels down the trail making everything worse. About the only thing you can do in this situation, short of re-aligning the trail, is install “check steps.” A check step acts like a dam to slow down water. Ideally you make them out of big honkin’ rocks but if those are in short supply, which is the situation on this section of trail, you use wood.
Unfortunately, what we’ve found a lot of the time is riders tend to have their brakes on going over the step and bit by bit the tires excavate the soil from the downslope side of the step. What we’ve done to fix this is search far and wide for large enough rocks to set on the downslope side of the step. There isn’t a lot of large rock in the area so we had to make do with what we could find, but we think that with enough thoughtful placement we’ve not only helped alleviate the loss of soil, but made the trail a little more aesthetic to ride.
We hope that you’ll join us next summer to continue our stewardship of this trail we all use. Keep an eye out for potential date in June, July and August!