Winter trailhead visits consistent with previous seasons

Kebler was really busy last season—no reason to think it will be different this year

By Mark Reaman

The Kebler Pass and Snodgrass trailheads continue to be the busiest North Valley trailheads in the winter months with Kebler seeing about 75 users a day and Snodgrass having an average of 57. That is according to the 2022-23 Winter Data Collection Initiative that has been tracking winter trailhead use since 2017-18 season. Based on the data trends, there is no reason to expect the 2023-24 season will vary much.

Western Colorado University graduate student Paul Rivera gave a report to the Crested Butte town council at the end of last winter and said monitoring at the six major drainages in the North Valley continues to be done via remote cameras that capture backcountry access from December to April. Rivera indicated a glitch with the camera at the Cement Creek trailhead did not provide an accurate seasonal count last year.

According to the report, at least 28,378 recreational visits took place on winter trails in the North Valley. Kebler Pass was the most visited with 8,656 tallied and most of those were motorized users with snowmobiles. 

Snodgrass received the second most visitors totaling 6,061 visits “with almost 99% of those being non-motorized users, the highest count of non-motorized users at any trailhead. The Gothic trailhead saw the highest number of mechanized users, totaling 112 fat bikers throughout the season,” the report stated. Aside from Cement Creek with the camera malfunction, Brush Creek totaled only 910 recreational visits and was the least busy winter trailhead. Washington Gulch and Slate River trailheads each saw about 28 daily visits.

Overall, last season’s analysis indicates consistent numbers in winter recreation for the North Valley. The hope is that different land managers including the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management can use the data for future planning initiatives. 

Rivera recommended that it might be time to replace all the monitoring cameras but especially the one at Cement Creek. The study is an ongoing collaborative between WCU’s Master of Environmental Management program, the Center for Public Lands, Silent Tracks and the town of Crested Butte.

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