When I decide to hike a new trail (based on a squiggly line on a map and brief — and often dated — description on a Forest Service website), it's a gamble. The trail might not actually even exist, which has happened more times than I care to think, or it may have fallen into disrepair, become overgrown or have been rerouted and is much different than the map shows. But most of the time the new trail I'm exploring is exactly as described, and my experience is pretty much what I had expected.
The latter is the case with the McQuaid Trail, #631, about 85 miles west of Colorado Springs, near Fairplay. A trail of gently rolling hills, tall pines alternating with aspens, a few easy creek crossings, and some nice views, the trail is a pleasant, family-friendly hiking experience. On my recent hike there, my dog and I never saw another person.
At a little more than 6 miles round-trip, the only real challenge is finding a place to park at the "trailhead" on Forest Service Road 435.
During the hike, you'll go through three gates (close them behind you) and at about 2.25 miles the trail crosses the tiny Spring Creek. Right after Spring Creek, the trail crosses Forest Service Road 434. Bear left on the road for a hundred feet or so and then look for the trail sign. At about 2.95 miles the trail crosses another creek, after which immediately bear right at the fork and follow the trail until it ends at Forest Service Road 433. Return by backtracking on the trail.
Things you need to know: This trail starts at about 9,000 feet, and has about 822 feet of ascent (it really is pretty easy). The tread is mostly soft, and there is the occasional downed tree that is easy to go over or around. The trail is open to non-motorized use only. There aren't any facilities (water, bathrooms, etc.) anywhere near the trail, so plan accordingly. The nearest town is Fairplay, almost 20 miles away. As noted, parking is very limited, so avoid going on weekends, or have a "plan B" and "plan C" if there is no parking when you get there. Cell phone service is spotty and cannot to be relied on.
To get there: From Colorado Springs, take US Highway 24 west for about 75 miles to US 285. At US 24 and US 285, turn north (right) onto 285. After about 1.75 miles, turn west (left) onto Forest Service Road 435/Salt Creek Road. There is a sign for Salt Creek Road, but it comes up quickly and there is no left-turn lane so use caution. Follow FSR 435 for a little over 3 miles to the trailhead. See above for parking options. The road is easily driven by almost any vehicle when dry. Note: FSR 435 is closed to motor vehicles from Jan. 1-July 15 due to elk breeding in the area. You can hike/snowshoe/cross-country ski to the trailhead during the closure, if you wish, which adds more than 6 miles to this trip.
A new startup website has been created by local entrepreneurs that seeks to connect recreationists with outdoor recreation nonprofit groups.
Bevara was created by Colorado Springs natives Spencer Wegner and Sarah Brondum in September 2019 while they were attending The University of Colorado at Boulder, and the website launched in April of 2021. According to Wegner, who has volunteered and worked as a guide in Colorado Springs' North Cheyenne Cañon Park, the goal of the website is take the profile information provided by an outdoor recreationist, and pair them up with a nonprofit that matches not only the type of recreation they engage in, but also by the type of support they wish to provide the organization. According to Wegner, nonprofits benefit by expanding their reach and their ability to raise funds or increase their volunteer base.
Wegner says land managers' resources are being spread thin, causing them to rely more and more on nonprofits, which are also spread thin due to increased demand. Wegner says the goal is for Bevara to help support nonprofits and, in turn, support land managers.
For more information, go to Bevara.co
Hiking the Dixon Trail in Cheyenne Mountain State Park is challenging, and running it is even more challenging. The Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Parks 25K "Cheyenne Mountain Run" tests runners endurance, and also serves as a qualifying run for the even more challenging Pikes Peak Ascent. If 25K isn't your cup of tea, there are also 5K and 10K races. The event will be held Oct. 9 and you can find course information here. Get more general information and sign up at the Friends' website here.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.