Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Waldo Canyon reopens

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 10:33 AM

The Waldo Canyon Fire. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • The Waldo Canyon Fire.

Before 2012's Waldo Canyon Fire, the trail that ran through the Waldo Canyon area, with a trailhead just off U.S. 24 west of Manitou Springs, was one of the most popular in the region.

I still remember hiking it. There were charming old signs explaining the geology of the canyon, which could be viewed from overlooks along the trail.  Parts of the path were scrubby and open, and other parts were lush and thickly wooded. At one point, the creek dipped under a huge boulder. One walked down a path, that then split — hikers could choose to do this loop section of the trail in either direction. It was a great little hike, long enough to feel like a workout, and short enough to be completed after work on a summer's day.

Waldo closed after the fire, which started near the trail. That fire was, at the time, the most destructive fire in Colorado history (2013's Black Forest Fire would later eclipse that record). But the Forest Service has just announced it's reopening the Waldo area.

The trail isn't there, and it sounds like accessing Waldo will be difficult. Past reporting on the Waldo area describes devastation from fire and flood that have made Waldo nearly unrecognizable. But for those who want to see the area again, or for those who have never seen this local treasure, this is great news.

Check out the Forest Service's detailed explanation of the opening below:

Successful Recovery Effort Leads Forest Service to Reopen Waldo Canyon as Recreation Planning Effort Gets Underway
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., October 5, 2017 – The Pike National Forest has revised the closure order for Waldo Canyon to allow public access. The Order (PSICC-2017-22) rescinds parts of the previous closure that prohibited entry into Waldo Canyon. The many years of work by federal, state, local, and non-profit organizations has allowed for recovery of the land making public use of this part of El Paso County on the Pikes Peak Ranger District possible again.

While the public will be allowed to access Waldo, the Waldo Canyon Trail (NFST 640) and Waldo Canyon Trailhead on Highway 24 will remained closed for public safety. There are no other legally designated Forest Service system trails in Waldo Canyon. Public accessing the area should use caution and be prepared for cross-country hiking over rough terrain and debris from the 2012 wildfire. The potential for flash flooding still exists. In addition, there are many dead hazard trees that can fall down. Anyone entering the area should be aware of these hazards and take any necessary safety precautions by using extreme caution.

This opening is the beginning of the next chapter in Waldo recovery. "We are proud of the massive recovery effort the Forest Service, partners, and the community has poured into Waldo and happy that we are finally able to open the area as hunting season gets going," said Oscar Martinez, District Ranger. The Forest Service is working with partners on a sustainable path forward for recreation in the area. Redesigning and implementing a safe sustainable recreation plan in the Waldo burn scar is complex and will take time.

The newly revised Order maintains prohibitions of camping and campfires in the area and keeps several roads closed. However, parking will now be allowed in non-designated parking areas. To read the new order and see the map, visit www.fs.usda.gov/psicc and look under "Alerts & Warnings." 

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