RMFI is a proud partner of the National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) Find Your Fourteener campaign (FYF), which is a collaborative effort with a primary goal to increase the pace and scale of trail improvements and ecological restoration on Fourteeners throughout Colorado. In 2017, the inaugural year of the campaign, NFF has chosen Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, as a priority peak. RMFI’s extensive history of completing high-quality trail and restoration projects in the Pikes Peak Region, expertise in the alpine environment, ability to mobilize and lead volunteer and youth corps crews, and strong partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and NFF well-positions the organization to lead the Devil’s Playground Trail Improvement Project.
The Devil’s Playground Trail (also known as the Crags Trail) traverses approximately 7 miles and 4,300 feet starting from a trailhead located near the Crags Campground (Woodland Park, CO) and terminating at the summit of Pikes Peak, elevation 14,115 feet. The trail is located entirely on the USFS Pike National Forest. The Devil’s Playground Trail is one of two primary hiking trails to the summit of Pikes Peak, accepted to be one of the most visited mountains in the world. The Devil’s Playground Trail offers a shorter, less crowded route as compared to Barr Trail, and provides hikers with stunning views of mountain ranges to the west.
Unfortunately, the Devil’s Playground Trail is in poor condition. The mountain was not surveyed in the Colorado Fourteener Initiative’s (CFI) Statewide Report Card that documented the condition of many Fourteeners in the state. However, the trail would likely grade poorly. The trail is aligned with the fall line in many locations and it lacks proper stabilization structures in areas where the slope exceeds gradient standards. This has led to incision of up to 4 feet in some areas, both above and below treeline. Because the trail does not drain properly, channelized water flows have scoured soil leading to mass wasting of vegetation loss and loose rock. Hikers pick their way up the trail, often times stepping on sensitive alpine vegetation rather than sticking to durable surfaces. The long-term solution is a re-route of approximately 3.5 miles that will place the trail in a more sustainable alignment. Once the re-route is complete, the old alignment will be actively restored to avoid further degradation to the alpine. New trail construction, expected to begin in 2019, is dependent on approval of environmental clearances and design, which are currently underway. Until that time, stabilization efforts are critical to prevent further degradation to the alpine, which takes decades to recover.
Until clearances are in place to permit construction of the new trail alignment, objectives of the Devil’s Playground Trail Improvement Project will focus on mitigating erosional impacts from the existing trail. RMFI will address maintenance “hotspots”; areas of the existing alignment that are destabilized and over-widened. The trail corridor will be narrowed by installing “gargoyle” rocks (to channel users onto the hardened trail) and transplanting vegetation into impacted areas. In order to keep users on one designated trail tread, RMFI will make improvements to short sections of the trail that are braided and incised. In some cases, stabilization structures such as rock or log riser steps, check dams, and retaining walls may be necessary to retain soil and provide a clear route for hikers. Restoration materials such as an alpine seed mix, organic fertilizer, and erosion control blankets may be useful to expedite the restoration process.
2018 WORK FOCUS
- Complete maintenance activities along the Devil's Playground Trail that address "hotspots" to mitigate erosional impacts.
PROJECT PARTNERS AND FUNDERS
- Colorado Mountain Club - Pikes Peak Group
- Friends of the Peak
- Mile High Youth Corps
- National Forest Foundation
- U.S. Forest Service