South Colony Lakes Basin

Sine 1997, RMFI has worked to create a sustainable trail and camping infrastructure in this highly visited alpine basin that provides access to 4 popular 14ers
In-trail drainage structure to mitigate trail down-cutting

The Rocky Mountain Field Institute has been working in a variety of capacities since 1994 to address recreational impacts on Colorado's high peaks. RMFI provided the leadership for the current statewide effort now being undertaken to construct sustainable climbing routes and restore badly damaged sites along climbing route corridors. RMFI has completed work on Mount Belford, La Plata Peak, and Mount Huron. Since 1997, RMFI has focused on South Colony Lakes Basin and the surrounding peaks (Humboldt Peak, Crestone Needle, and Crestone Peak) where RMFI has completed some of the most difficult alpine restoration and trail work yet completed in the region.

South Colony Lakes Basin lies at the heart of southern Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Range. Surrounded by Crestone Needle, Mount Humboldt and Broken Hand Peak, the basin is one of the most spectacular and beautiful alpine settings in the Southern Rockies and a centerpiece of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. Recreational use has risen dramatically in recent years in South Colony Lakes Basin due to the increasing popularity of outdoor recreation and the climbing of the 14,000' peaks. Current visitation estimates range from 5,000 to 7,000 visitor days per year (RMFI). Recreational impacts and disturbances levels have grown commensurate with this increase. Shortages in funds and resources have prevented the Forest Service from responding to and effectively managing these impacts. As a consequence, disturbance levels have grown in severity to the degree where they now pose a serious threat to the ecological integrity of the area and its wilderness values.

RMFI has completed extensive work in the area beginning with the building of a summit trail on Humboldt Peak in 1997. Since that year, RMFI has repaired the trails throughout South Colony Lakes Basin, constructed a trail to the summit of Crestone Needle, and built a trail over Broken Hand Pass into Cottonwood Lake Basin. RMFI has also completed extensive restoration in conjunction with the trail work. The work has been accomplished largely with Earth Corps students and volunteers who have collectively contributed over 45,000 hours through 2007.

Project Goal

To improve the natural ecological conditions and wilderness values of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness through the mitigation of recreational threats to biological and physical resources, and the restoration of damaged sites.

Project Objectives

  • Repair or construct sustainable hiking trails and summit routes.
  • Close and restore 'social' trails and other damaged sites.
  • Support Forest Service planning efforts through research and consultation.