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Plan would ban bikes, horses on trail to Cheyenne Mountain summit
People will be able to hike from Cheyenne Mountain State Park to the top of its namesake mountain someday, but not ride a mountain bike or horse, under a management plan unveiled Wednesday for the park.
A trail from the system of trails at the mountain's base to the summit has long been a dream of outdoors enthusiasts, and it’s a high priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. But officials say allowing horses or bikes on that trail is not feasible.
“It’s extremely steep. The terrain is decomposing granite. It’s going to be very difficult just to establish a singletrack in there,” said park manager Mitch Martin during an open house Wednesday.
It will take four or five years to complete the trail, due to the remote location and rugged terrain — it's an hour's hike to the trailhead. Work is under way and much of the trail construction so far has been completed by volunteers.
Parks officials want to allow horses and bikes on a 1.25-mile stretch of trail that leads from the North Talon Trail in the park to a saddle on the mountain, but not on the remaining 1.75-mile trail to the summit or the 2.18-mile loop around the top. Many cyclists continue to ask for unfettered access.
Officials say the slope is too steep and the trail will be too narrow, with the potential for falling rocks and eroding granite, to permit bikes on the upper stretch. Officials may allow bikes on a proposed trail from the west to the summit loop. They also may allow backcountry camping on the summit.
“We see some compromise in the plan and a win-win for everybody,” Martin said.
Mountain bikers are requesting access to the park-to-summit trail when it is built.
“We’re very pleased they’ve expanded the opportunities for mountain bikes but we still would prefer access all the way, and I’m not sure they’ve provided an adequate rationale for restricting access all the way,” said Jim Schwerin, president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates.
“To have Cheyenne Mountain in our backyard and say we’re not allowed to go up there because we’re mountain bikers is not fair,” said former state Rep. Mike Merrifield.
Both men say they will speak against the plan when the Parks and Wildlife Commission votes on it Dec. 6 at a meeting at the DoubleTree hotel in Colorado Springs.
They have the support of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, whose executive director Susan Davies said, “Just because something is a little risky, don’t say, ‘No you can’t do it.’ It’s a person’s choice.”
Horseback riders were more enthusiastic about the plan. Park officials want to allow horses in the park for the first time, though only on the Sundance, Talon and North and South Talon trails and the lower section of the summit trail.
“We‘re very delighted, since we have never had access before. There are a lot of riders in this area,” said Kathleen Burke, of Woodland Park.
“Historically, those trails were used by horses. You hate to have any state park closed to horses,” said Chris Whitney.
As for not being allowed to ride their horses to the summit, Whitney said, “Most riders won’t be able to ride all the way to the top, anyway.”
Officials also plan to build an archery range, rental cabins and more campsites at the state park.