Here’s What We’re Doing to Restore the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

The three women who founded Wilderness Workshop are known locally as the “Maroon Belles” because of their early work to significantly expand the footprint of what’s now the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. We are fortunate that one of the most iconic—and photogenic!—landscapes in the country is right here in our backyard.

These lands are the ancestral homelands of the Ute people. When mining prospectors arrived to the Roaring Fork Valley in the late 1800s, some of this area was used for logging and other developments. Wilderness designation and expansion occurred in the 1960s and 1980s, and historic uses like grazing and hunting continued while recreational use continues to grow. Since then, the scars of historic logging are slowly repairing, but sometimes active restoration is needed to continue the rewilding.

An example of this is an old logging road and set of non-system, social trails that are seeing increasing mountain bike use, on the northern side of the Mount Sopris near Thomas Lakes. While the Hay Park Trail—to the north of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness—is a classic bike ride, mountain biking along with all other mechanized and motorized use and travel is prohibited in designated wilderness areas under the Wilderness Act. This summer, we’re partnering with the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA), the Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council and the U.S. Forest Service to restore this road-trail near Hay Park. This restoration project will help protect the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and reestablish wildness for future generations.
This is our second year of work in the Hay Park area. Last summer we teamed up on a joint trail project re-routing and improving part of the Hay Park Trail, just west of this year’s project. Due to a mapping error, this part of the trail also crossed into designated wilderness.

It’s great to be back in the same beautiful area this year, and we’re grateful to have RFMBA’s support with this important project. Our organizations share a commitment to responsible recreation and are always looking for creative partnership opportunities. As RFMBA’s executive director Mike Pritchard notes, “continued improvements to the management of the Hay Park area trail system benefit local and visiting riders, ensuring we can all enjoy this wild landscape for generations to come.”

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