Due to excessive erosion and damage to sensitive natural and cultural resources, the Crater Trail, a short trail located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, will remain closed to use for the remainder of this year, according to the National Park Service.
The Crater Trail is a 1-mile dead-end trail that is normally open to visitor use by mid-August each year after the bighorn sheep lambing season. The trail leads to the top of the Continental Divide and provides an overview of “The Crater” located on the west side of Specimen Mountain.
Park staff are considering closing the Crater Trail permanently. The trail was never officially designed and constructed. Instead, it evolved from an informal footpath.
Park personnel say the trail is not sustainable in its current location and is subject to erosion, which is damaging cultural and natural resources, including alpine tundra. Improving the trail in its current location is not desirable because the cost of long term maintenance would be excessive, according to park officials.
The trail leads directly to the Specimen Mountain Research Natural Area (RNA). There are three RNAs in the park. These designated areas are an integral part of the park’s designation as an International Biosphere Reserve. RNAs contain prime examples of natural resources and processes that have value for baseline and long-term studies for scientific and educational purposes.
Providing direct access runs counter to the purposes for which the Specimen Mountain RNA was established.
Park staff welcome comments on the proposal to permanently close the Crater Trail. Provide written comments no later than Sept. 30. The preferred method for providing comments is to use the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ROMO - from the home page click on the “Crater Trail Project.”