Ring the Peak Draft Management Plan
It is with great pleasure that the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) publish this draft report entitled Ring the Peak Master Plan. This report is the culmination of over two years of public, stakeholder and personal meetings designed to arrive at consensus on completing the iconic Ring the Peak Trail.
The core partnership team responsible for the production of this report was comprised of individuals from the TOSC Board of Directors, our consulting team at N.E.S., Inc. and a representative of Friends of the Peak. Funding for this project was provided through a Planning Grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).
As the Project Manager for TOSC, I would like to thank all of the individuals, agencies, and organizations who provided their valuable input during the planning process. All of your input was carefully considered and helped guide the process to what we hope is a viable option to, at long last, complete the Ring the Peak Trail.
— Michael Rigney
We have submitted this draft plan to our principal stakeholders for review and we hope to have their comments in a few weeks. Our partnership team will then review the comments and issue a final Master Plan as soon as those comments are incorporated into a final document.
This final Master Plan will be the principal guiding document for completing the Ring the Peak Trail.
Closing the 8-Mile Gap
Recognizing that little progress has been made in developing a strategy for closing the 8-mile gap on the southwest portion of the Peak, Friends of the Peak joined forces with the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) to apply for a Planning Grant through Great Outdoors Colorado. TOSC was awarded the grant in December, 2016 and developed a Request for Proposals from planning firms to assist in the development of the plan.
After reviewing a number of excellent proposals from well qualified firms, the project’s selection committee chose N.E.S., Inc. (NES) of Colorado Springs and their team of sub-consultants.
Project Goals and Approach
The two main goals that have been identified include:
- The development of a Master Plan for closing the approximately 8-mile gap in the Ring, and;
- The development of a Maintenance and Sustainability Plan to ensure the long-term health and integrity of the entire Ring the Peak Trail.
NES identified a number of programmatic gaps, the closing of which are integral to the short and long-term goals for the trail. These include:
- Closing the Community Engagement Gap: this program will seek to build excitement in the region for the trail and define user expectations for a successful outcome. The goal is to engage the communities around the Ring to develop a shared vision of the Ring the Peak Trail;
- Closing the Physical 8-Mile Gap: this process will explore and evaluate trail corridor alternatives and define a preferred trail alignment to complete the Ring;
- Closing the Management Gap: the program will engage stakeholders in planning a sustainable future for the Ring.
Existing Trail Maps, Documents and Links
Friends of the Peak
The Friends of the Peak has a wealth of information on the evolution of the Ring the Peak Trail as well as maps of the trail segments. They also have downloadable GPS files, photos of trail heads and key trail junctions, and driving directions to trailheads.
Trails and Open Space Coalition
As a project of TOSC, interested parties can check TOSC’s web site and Ring the Peak website for regular updates on the project.
As products are developed and made available for the public and stakeholders, we will place links for viewing and downloading here.
Interactive Pikes Peak Area Trail Map
To get you started and oriented to the Pikes Peak region, displayed below is an interactive map supplied by MTB Project an REI company. Map widget used with their permission.
A number of public meetings will be held primarily in the Cripple Creek/Victor area during the coming year. These meetings will provide ample opportunities for public input. Two Public Meetings will be held to present work products and solicit comments from interested citizens, businesses and organizational representatives. There will also be four Stakeholder Meetings of governmental and agency representatives. A Public Forum will be held in November that will focus on the potential for outdoor recreation in the region and the economic benefits of those activities. The forum will also provide opportunities for public input in small, facilitated groups.
No Public Meetings at this time, please check back at a future date
The Ring the Peak (RTP) concept was developed in detail in the early 1990’s as an off-shoot of efforts of the North Slope Advisory Committee. Citizens Jim Strub, Lee Milner, and Tom Papadinoff, among others, were involved. Gail Synder, first head of FOTP, and a UCCS Geography student were supervised one summer by Professor Tom Huber.
Beginning in 1997, a multi-agency group was formed by Colorado Springs Utilities to develop a comprehensive regional planning effort to strike a “balance between preservation of critical water and other natural resources, and the desires for recreational access”. The process succeeded in engaging unprecedented public participation through a Citizen’s Advisory Group and a Technical Advisory Group to deal with complex resource and planning issues.
After two years of meetings, field work and research, a final plan was developed and adopted by public agencies and a number of non-profit organizations including Friends of the Peak. The plan, titled Pikes Peak Multi-Use Plan, Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek became the guiding document for resource agencies and partner organizations. To view or download a copy of the final adopted plan click on this link.
The final plan’s Regional Vision designated a Perimeter Loop Trail consisting of a system of multi-use non-motorized trails that circle Pikes Peak. This system envisioned using existing roads and trails to complete the loop. This Perimeter Loop Trail provides the backbone for the existing Ring the Peak Trail.
Since the plan was adopted, Friends of the Peak has worked in cooperation with the Pike National Forest staff to maintain those portions of the trail designated as official segments of the Ring the Peak Trail. Although those segments make up approximately 70% of the loop envisioned in the Multi-Use Plan, a significant gap remains on the southwest flank of the Peak in the vicinity of the cities of Cripple Creek and Victor.
The focus of this project is to propose a route that will complete the loop and develop a management and implementation strategy for this approximately 8-mile gap through a public participation process.
As of February 13, 2018
- The 1999 Pikes Peak Multi-Use Plan (PPMUP) looked broadly at the Peak envisioning a non-motorized loop trail, Ring the Peak, a motorized loop and spur trail to the summit.
- Currently, 9 portals provide access to the Ring trails. These trails cross federal, state, county, city, and private lands. Total length of the trail system is approximately 63 miles; 80% of the route is completed.
- In early 2000, Friends of The Peak (FOTP) began executing the plan developed by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). Since the PPMUP had a vehicular “loop” around the mountain, the group called it “Ring” and added “the Peak” – an addition that linked it to the Pikes Peak area, with the potential to become a nationally known trail.
- Routes were scouted for the three easiest gaps — a bypass (Esther/Crystal) around the Pikes Peak Highway maintenance area, between the Mount Esther Trail and Crystal Creek; a connection (Raspberry Mountain) from existing Forest roads southwest of North Catamount Reservoir over to the Crags Road; and a connection (Putney Gulch) from the Crags Road to Horsethief Park. USFS performed a NEPA and issued a favorable decision memorandum.
- Signage with logos for the trail was developed in 2003. Green indicates counterclockwise direction and Brown for clockwise and both colors approved by the USFS as commensurate with their colored signage system.
- After a few years CSU and El Paso County Parks began studies and proposals for re-establishing the Ute Pass Regional Trail through this area. In October 2015 that effort concluded with a decision by the County to route the Ute trail along the original route used by the Utes on the northeast side of the Peak.
- In 2014 Manitou Springs closed another gap when they built the Iron Mountain Trail, completing a long-missing section of the Intemann Trail.
- A route for a sustainable trail from Pancake Rocks to the Oil Creek drainage to an existing trail along the West Fork of West Beaver Creek had several alternatives for reaching Gillette. In August of 2003 a map and proposal for this connection was submitted to the USFS but no action was ever taken. It assumed use of an existing road in the Cripple Creek watershed, agreeable to the City and the Timberline Camp.
- In subsequent years FOTP has continued to scout routes through the 8-mile gap between Pancakes Rocks and the “Watergate” on Forest Road 376.
- Two gaps remained in the plan at the start of 2017; Ute Pass Trail and the 8-mile southwest gap. El Paso County has an approved route and began construction on the Ute Pass Trail in late 2017.
- In 2016 Governor John Hickenlooper added Ring the Peak to his 16 in 16 initiative. Most recently the Trails and Open Spaces Coalition (TOSC) became involved obtaining a $100,000 grant to complete the project.
- NES Inc. was hired in 2017 to create a Master Plan for the missing 8-mile gap. The Team will develop the Master Plan based on previous public input received as well as new input to further inform and refine the Master Plan.
- Q: What will the Ring the Peak Trail user experience be like?
A: It won’t be all back-country or all urban. Different experiences already exist. For example, trail segments through Red Rock Open Space and Section 16 are more urban compared to sections off Edlowe Road, which are more remote and provide more a “wilderness” experience.
- Q: Will there be both motorized and non-motorized areas?
A: The Ring the Peak Trail currently includes motorized and non-motorized segments. Some sections are limited, for example you cannot bike on the Mount Esther switchbacks. Parts of the Ring currently are motorized, with some motorcycle trails and some ATV and jeep roads.
- Q: Is there Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) access?
A: OHV is currently allowed on some segments of the Ring the Peak Trail. Victor and Cripple Creek both allow OHV on city streets and are promoting motorized trail use. Teller county forest roads are opened to OHV. Different sections can provide different experiences and uses, so people who want biking can go to one section, and people who want OHV can go to another section.
- Q: What kind of access will there be for hunters?
A: The Ring the Peak Trail provides access for a variety of uses, including hunting on certain segments of the trail. The existing segments of the Ring the Peak Trail are managed by numerous different entities. Each managing entity has its own rules and regulations. For more information, users should consult their local jurisdictions for rules and regulations pertaining to specific trail segments.
- Q: There are not many access points in Victor. How will we gain access?
A: Access points along the missing 8-mile link will be determined through this master plan process.
- Q: Will there be overnight use or just day use? Permits required?
A: This has not been determined. The Ring the Peak Master Plan process will make recommendations regarding access and use. The planning team is seeking input from local community members to help inform the master plan process.
- Q: What sorts of emergency aid will be available?
A: Emergency access in the Master Plan project area is currently very limited. The Master Plan process will seek to address this issue.
- Q: How will Fire be handled?
A: Concerns about potential for fire have been raised during the Master Plan process. These concerns are most often raised within the context of source watershed protection and risk. The Master Plan will include recommendations on strategies to manage and minimize wildfire risk.
- Q: Will the local watershed protection be increased for both Victor and Cripple Creek? Reservoir rules are in place but people jump fences and go in.
A: The Master Plan process will include management recommendations and will seek to address trespass issues. The planning team is seeking input from local communities on strategies to protect watersheds.
- Q: How much attention will be given to our wildlife to keep it pristine?
A: The planning team is currently working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to better understand any potential wildlife habitat impacts. Bighorn sheep have been identified as a critical species for protection in this area. In addition, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating whether portions of Pikes Peak provide critical habitat for lynx and possibly wolverine. Pike National Forest has goals for protection of big game habitat.
- Q: I like it quiet and a trail will bring lots of people and noise. What affect will that have?
A: The Master Plan will include recommendations on management strategies to minimize impacts to wildlife, habitat and people.
- Q: There’s not a lot of cell service in the area now. Won’t that be a problem?
A: Some existing segments for the Ring the Peak Trail are very remote with poor or non-existent cellular service. Poor cell service may reduce emergency service response times. Hiking in the backcountry has inherent risks. The Master Plan will include recommendations on strategies to inform and educate trail users of the conditions and risks.
- Q: What will be the approval process for the plan this process seeks to create? Will it be with individual organizations, landowners, managing agencies?
A: The Master Plan will be developed through community and stakeholder input. The planning process will seek to find consensus among the various organizations, landowners and managing agencies. Approval for implementation of the Master Plan will reside with individual landowners and managing agencies. It is important to note that the Ring the Peak Master Plan Process cannot substitute for the U.S. Forest Service’s formal planning and environmental process. Instead, the Ring the Peak Master Plan will serve as a document to inform future updates to the Pike and San Isabel Forest Plan.
- Q: Who oversees this whole process?
A: The stakeholders play a key role in informing and shaping the plan recommendations. As the recipient of the grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Pikes Peak Trail and Open Space Coalition has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the Master Plan Process remains consistent with the goals and objectives identified with in the grant application and the overall vision of the 1999 Pikes Peak Multi-Use Plan.
- Q: What kind of economic impact will a trail like this bring to the communities of Victor and Cripple Creek?
A: Economic development has been identified by stakeholders as possible benefit that could be realized through the implementation of a trail around Pikes Peak. The level of impact will likely be determined by a variety of factors including but not limited to: trail location, types of amenities along the trail, locations of trail portals and trailheads, level of private business investment, willingness and desire of local communities to market and invest in the trail, availability of services that cater to and interest trail users, number and type of special events, and many more. To date, the planning team has received a broad range of ideas and interests in economic development from a vision to develop the Ring the Peak Trail into an “international destination attraction” to a simple “wilderness experience” for locals. Data on statewide economy shows outdoor recreation is growing quickly. Small communities looking to diversify and promote outdoor recreation could market events in the Pikes Peak region or market Ring the Peak. The Master Plan will see consensus on the vision for economic development associated with the trail and make recommendations on implementation.
- Q: Will outfitter guides or commercial use be allowed on the Ring the Peak Trail?
A: This has not been determined. The Master Plan process will seek to find the right management and operational strategies to realize the vision for the trail and sustain its existence. A variety of management approaches from similar trail projects are being researched and evaluated to inform decisions related to the long-term management and sustainability of the Ring the Peak Trail.
- Q: Should there be one entity to market Pikes Peak or should it be through multiple agencies?
A: This has yet to be determined. A variety of management approaches from similar trail projects are being researched and evaluated to inform decisions related to the long-term management and sustainability of the Ring the Peak Trail.
- Q: Who’s going to pay for all this upkeep?
A: Ring The Peak needs to be sustainable. Many of the organizations that have segments of the trail within their jurisdictions have expressed concern about availability of resources to maintain and operate the Ring the Peak Trail. The Master Plan will include recommendations on sustainable management strategies. A variety of management approaches from similar trail projects are being researched and evaluated to inform decisions related to the long-term management and sustainability of the Ring the Peak Trail. Some of the ideas suggested to date by community members and stakeholders include: volunteers, grants, user fees, permit fees, etc.
- Q: Does the Newmont Mine have trails?
A: The Newmont Mine property currently contains several trails. Trails need to have educational information on mining and safety due to mining activities, heavy equipment and periodic blasting. The Newmont Mine currently maintains these trails for the benefit of the surrounding communities and public.
- Q: What about trespassing on private lands?
A: Concerns about trespassing have been raised during the Master Plan process. The Master Plan will include strategies for minimizing trespassing. Ideas that have been suggested to date include: Enforcement and regular ranger presence along the trail, fines, fencing, way-finding signage, education, and careful routing of trails away from sensitive areas and private property.
- Q: Will there be Rangers on the Trail? Patrols?
A: This has not been determined. There is a need a law enforcement presence. Agencies have limited law enforcement personnel. The Master Plan will include recommendations on management and operational strategies.
- Q: Will there be a Use permit system?
A: This has not been determined. Stakeholders have stated that free self-issue permits have a 96% to 98% compliance with rules and regulations. The Master Plan will include recommendations on management and operational strategies.
- Q: Is there any data on trespassing before and after a trail goes in? Does trespassing decline when there is a legal trail?
A: Stakeholders have expressed concerns that hikers and runners are seeking a way across the 8-mile missing gap. This has resulted in trespassing on private property and publicly owned lands where no access is permitted. The general agreement across trail professionals and recreation management organizations is that the vast majority of trail users will follow a well-designed, sustainable trail, because the trail greatly adds to their outdoor experience. It is noted that additional measures may be considered to further encourage and enforce compliance with rules and regulations such as enforcement, permitting, education, etc. The Master Plan will make recommendations on management and operational strategies for the Ring the Peak Trail.
- Q: Who will be responsible for marketing and maintaining the trail?
A: This has yet to be determined. The Friends of the Peak currently maintains a website that provides information about the trail. Each jurisdiction currently is responsible for maintenance of the trail within their property. The Friends of the Peak currently lead volunteer projects to help build and maintain the existing segments of the trail. Stakeholders have suggested that a nonprofit foundation could be considered to assist with marketing and maintenance. One suggestion includes the National Forest Foundation that currently works with the recreation industry across the U.S.
Trails and Open Space Coalition
Mike Rigney, Project Manager
N.E.S. Inc. Project Consultants
Chris Lieber, Project Lead
Friends of the Peak
Allison Towe, Bachman Public Relations