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The open spaces in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region are vast with hundreds of miles of trails. These trails are designed and built by professional landscape architects who consider not only the enjoyment of all trail users, but also environmental concerns such as wildlife habitat and erosion control. You can spot these trails by the trail markers that help direct you as you run, hike, or bike.
But there are other kinds of trails crisscrossing our open spaces. These are broadly considered undesignated trails. They are not built by the City’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department or its partner organizations. We know them by a variety of names, such as “social trails,” “unofficial trails,” “rouge trails” and even “illegal trails.” They are often popular shortcuts or venture into areas where there is no official trail.
There are also instances when new trails are intentionally constructed by unauthorized individuals. This is more than just wandering off a designated trail. It is illegal to knowingly build your own trail in a public open space, and you can be fined for doing so.
As our region continues to grow, it is crucial that we all work together to preserve and maintain our open spaces. One way that you can do that is to stay on official trails. When you do, you are helping to conserve, protect, and maintain the beauty of the Pikes Peak Region.
Why undesignated trails are a problem
It is an expansive problem. For example, in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, there are more undesignated trails than there are official trials. Thankfully, many of those trails are not in use anymore, and may even be hard to identify, thanks to reclamation efforts. But undesignated trails are still in use. Park officials have also witnessed individuals illegally building their own trails in multiple parks and open spaces across the city.
Park rangers spend countless hours and financial resources working to correct this damage. In Austin Bluffs Open Space, crews are adding more than four miles of designated trails. But they must also reclaim three miles of undesignated trails. The reclamation of those trails will cost more than $25,000.
How to make sure you stay on designated trailsRed Rock Open Space show the designated trails in the park. If you come across a trail that is not on the map and doesn't have a trail marker, it is likely an undesignated trail. You can also download apps that show park trails.
Other ways to spot undesignated trails are to look for trail markers. If you come across an intersection but the intersecting trail does not have a trail marker, it is likely undesignated. These trails often act as shortcuts or go straight up an incline instead of using switchbacks. When you see branches blocking a trail, it is an indicator that the trail is undesignated.
New trails are being added all the time
The City’s Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department, along with our partners, work diligently to add new trails to our parks and open spaces. In 2021, the City and its partners finished a project that added seven miles of new trail in North Cheyenne Cañon Park known as the Daniels Pass Trail System.
A $220,000 project to add more than four miles of trails and improve current trails is just getting started in Austin Bluffs Open Space.
You can find out about future projects and opportunities to help improve our parks and open spaces by following the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. There are also many opportunities to volunteer. For a list of upcoming opportunities, visit the Trails and Open Space Coalition’s volunteer calendar.
Leave No Trace
As the Pikes Peak area continues to grow, so does the community’s passion for outdoor recreation. Colorado Springs works closely with Leave No Trace, a national nonprofit organization, to educate users how to be good stewards of our parks, trails, and open spaces. Sixteen of our regional parks have recently received Gold Standard site designation from Leave No Trace for these efforts.
It is vital that all park users know how to leave as little an impact as possible and encourage those they share the parks with to do the same. You can learn more about these efforts at ColoradoSprings.gov/LeaveNoTrace.
Land managers team up to address illegal trails
Local land managers, including the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the USDA Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District, have teamed up to release the below statement.
“The Pikes Peak Region is vastly unique, rich in natural resources, and a nationally recognized area to live and play.
As our region continues to grow, it is crucial that we all work together to preserve and maintain these special places. The City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the USDA Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District are joining together to raise awareness of the highly destructive impact of illegally built trails.
The unauthorized building of trails is devastating to public land, especially here in the Pikes Peak Region where we have highly erosive soil. It is also expensive and time-intensive to correct. If you engage in illegal trail building, you can be fined. Please join us as we all work together to conserve, protect, and maintain the beauty of the Pikes Peak Region.”