Mountain Bikers Receive Rare Approval to Ride in a National Park

Mountain bikers have received a rare approval to ride on a trail in a National Park that was formerly only open to equestrians and hikers. A two-mile portion of the East Shore Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is set to open to mountain bikes.

Sunrise view of Grand Lake, Colorado. Photo: Michael Levine-Clark, via Flickr Creative Commons

Four years ago, almost to the day, we published an advocacy alert calling for support of a modest proposal to allow mountain biking on a short stretch of singletrack in Rocky Mountain National Park. While an announcement back in 2015 seemed to indicate that the trail would be open later that year, it took much longer than anticipated. Today, we’re pleased to report the decision has finally been made, and it is a favorable one. The National Park Service announced that they will publish a final rule that allows mountain biking on a roughly two-mile stretch of the East Shore trail that borders Grand Lake on the west edge of the park.

There is still work to be done before the trail will be opened to mountain biking, and the timeline for required reroutes has not yet been determined. That said, this is a major, and very rare, opportunity for mountain biking. Legal mountain biking in national parks is exceedingly rare, and what little there is, is usually on doubetrack or fire roads rather than genuine singletrack.

The trail’s exclusion from the park’s designated Wilderness area helped preserve this singletrack for possible mountain bike use. If it had been incorporated into the Wilderness area, it would have been off limits to mountain bikes by default.

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While the trail does not provide bike access to most of the park, it is especially useful as it provides a dirt route from a popular campground to the town of Grand Lake, instead of a rather frightening outing on a busy, paved highway. It also opens up the possibility of a primarily off-road route from the town of Grand Lake to the town of Lake Granby and beyond to the town of Granby, which could be a true backcountry classic, even by Colorado standards.