A feasibility study is underway to consider opportunities for a multi-use trail between Eldorado Canyon State Park and Walker Ranch Open Space. While there is an existing pedestrian/equestrian link, the trail is too steep and rocky to accommodate bicyclists. The next public input opportunity will be in late Nov. or early Dec.
Eldorado Canyon to Walker Ranch Connection Feasibility Study
A feasibility study is underway to consider opportunities for a multi-use trail between Eldorado Canyon State Park and Walker Ranch Open Space. While there is an existing pedestrian/equestrian link, the trail is too steep and rocky to accommodate bicyclists.
The study is supported by three partner agencies – Boulder County, the City of Boulder, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The findings and recommendation of the feasibility study will guide the next steps. If a new multi-use alignment is recommended, additional work would be needed to design a trail that minimizes impacts to environmental resources, meets design standards to construct and maintain a sustainable trail, and provides a meaningful visitor experience for multi-use recreationalists.
The primary objectives of the Eldorado-Walker connection are:
- Improve access to the Walker Ranch Loop trail.
- Expand the range of trail-based recreation opportunities.
- Reasonably accommodate bicycles while maintaining the currently allowed activities of hiking, running, and horseback riding.
Envisioned as a trail similar in character to the Walker Ranch Loop, an evaluation of conceptual trail alignments seeks to determine whether there are options that achieve the following objectives:
- Minimize environmental impacts.
- Provide a meaningful visitor experience for multi-use recreationists.
- Meet design standards to construct and maintain a sustainable trail.
- Technically feasible and fiscally responsible.
Over 100 people attended an open house that was held on Aug. 28. Participants represented recreational enthusiasts including mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners, as well as residents of Eldorado Springs.
Staff answered questions about the work completed to date on developing a range of trail options for further study, the proposed plan for evaluating the trail routes, the timeline, and public input opportunities for completing the feasibility study.
Public comments were accepted until Sept. 11. The three partner agencies would like to thank everyone that participated and provided feedback. Analysis of responses regarding the materials is under review to summarize key themes and help inform the next steps in the analysis and feasibility study. The summary will be posted once it is finalized by the partner agencies.
Another round of public comment will begin in late Nov. or early Dec. after the comparative analysis and draft agency preferred alternative is completed.
- The project team, comprised of representatives from the partner agencies, will complete analysis of conceptual alignments under consideration.
- In early Nov. the partner agencies will discuss the findings and develop a preliminary agency-preferred alternative for public consideration.
- In late Nov. or early Dec. a public open house will be hosted to share the findings of the comparative analysis and the draft preliminary agency-preferred alternative for public comment.
- Confirmation or re-evaluation and refinements of a preliminary agency-preferred alternative may be made based on public feedback.
- A final partner agencies recommendation is planned to be presented in Jan. to the Boulder County Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC), in Feb. to the Open Space Board of Trustees (OSBT), and in late Feb. or early March to the Boulder County Commissioners (BOCC) for action.
Study Corridors & Conceptual Alignments
The feasibility study identified over a dozen trail alignments for initial consideration. Through field visits and meetings with adjacent property owners, there were several routes dismissed. Two alignment corridors, each with four sub-alignments were retained for further analysis. These are described below and are included on the map.
The North Route generally follows the existing Eldorado Canyon Trail (ECT) corridor, with several variations and reroutes, reaching the Walker Ranch Loop Trail near South Boulder Creek. The existing and conceptual alignments detailed below are on public lands owned and managed by CPW/ECSP and City of Boulder OSMP.
Alignment N1 would include a realignment of the existing ECT, where the trail currently climbs through steep terrain in a series of steep switchbacks and steps within Eldorado Canyon State Park. A new trail would utilize terrain undulations to climb at a shallower grade, with turns and features that are suitable for multi-use travel. Portions of the existing trail would remain for climbing access and/or a short loop hike from the Eldorado Canyon State Park visitor center.
Alignment N2 would follow the existing ECT, with several short reroutes and enhancements to improve sustainability and suitability for multi-use travel.
Alignment N3 would follow the existing ECT where it drops to the west through a series of tight, steep switchbacks. Multiple short reroutes and trail enhancements would improve trail sustainability and suitability for multi-use travel.
Alignment N4 would require realignment of the existing ECT that would largely replace the existing ECT, using variations in terrain over a larger area to achieve shallower grades and a more sustainable trail that is better suited for multi-use travel. While some short sections of the existing trail may be re-used, most of it would be reclaimed and abandoned.
North Route approximate length: 4.9 miles
The South Route requires the construction of a new trail that follows a high contour from the existing Rattlesnake Gulch Trail around South Draw, before extending to the west past Johnson Gulch and Crescent Meadows, reaching the Walker Ranch Loop at the Crescent Meadows Trailhead. The conceptual alignments detailed below are on public lands owned and managed by BCPOS, City of Boulder OSMP, and ECSP.
Alignment S1 would follow a high contour above South Draw, crossing the stream near the southern edge of the study area.
Alignment S2 would follow contours to the north before climbing through a series of switchbacks in open and rocky terrain to reach a high saddle. From the saddle, the alignment would follow an existing two-track road, that would require enhancements to improve sustainability and suitability for multi-use travel.
Alignment S3 is a variation of S2, but would follow contours further north of S2, climbing to a lower saddle where it would turn to the west and follow a historic mining road that would require enhancements to improve sustainability and suitability for multi-use travel. It would reach the same saddle as S2.
Alignment S4 would descend towards a crossing of Johnson Gulch before climbing back to Crescent Meadows. Within Crescent Meadows, this route follows an existing two-track road, with several variations for sustainability and suitability for multi-use travel to reach the Crescent Meadows Trailhead.
South Route approximate length: 7.7 miles
For many years, there has been a desire to create a multiuse link that could reasonably accommodate bicycles. While there is an existing pedestrian/equestrian link between Eldorado Canyon State Park and Walker Ranch, the trail is steep and rocky to accommodate bicyclists. It also shows signs of erosion that present challenges for sustainable trail maintenance practices. An objective of the feasibility study is to evaluate options to realign the existing trail or to construct a new trail. A requirement is that both options would accommodate multi-use recreation.
Support for a feasibility study to evaluate a multiuse trail that includes bicyclists is identified in the following plans:
- Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan
- Walker Ranch Management Plan
- City of Boulder Visitor Master Plan
- Eldorado Mountain/Doudy Draw Trail Study Area (TSA) Plan
- West Trail Study Area (TSA) Plan
The connection also is identified as one of “the Colorado 16” (16 in 2016) priority trails in the 2016-2026 Colorado State Trails Plan and Department of Natural Resources Colorado the Beautiful program.