Newly Restored Young Gulch Trail is Back and Better than Ever
Young Gulch Trail reopened about 7 months ago after a 7 year closure. Now that the weather is starting to get nice, hikers and bikers finally get a chance to get out and explore the newly restored area. A huge thanks goes out to the volunteers who worked hard to revamp one of the area's oldest trails and make it better than ever.
The trail originally came about as the result of a road that was used by the Forest Service back in 1919. From then on, it was widely used for outdoor recreation, as it was conveniently located just 13 miles up the Poudre Canyon.
Sadly, the popular hiking, biking and riding destination fell victim to the High Park Fire in 2012. This left many of the trees charred and portions of the trail completely burnt to the ground.
About a year later, and just days after the trail had reopened from the fire, the area was hit with major flooding. In some areas, the water level was reportedly 20 feet high and washed away everything in its path. These two events resulted in 90% of the trail being destroyed, and because of this, the Forest Service planned on closing the gates at Young Gulch for good.
News of the trail permanently shutting down upset many local outdoor enthusiasts – so much so, that they offered to give their own time and effort to rebuild Young Gulch. The Overland Mountain Bike Association spearheaded the restoration project, and the U.S. Forest Service put in approximately $100,000 that went towards materials and support. In addition, other groups who helped to rebuild the trail along the way included Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Colorado Addicted Trailbuilders Society, Poudre Wilderness Volunteers, Larimer County Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Conservancy Conservation Corps. Local businesses, like the Mishawaka Amphitheatre and Odell Brewing, also assisted in funding and providing donations. It's estimated that around 11,500 volunteer hours were put into the project.
According to the Reporter Herald, these groups designed and reconstructed the trail in a more sustainable and resilient way. Young Gulch Trail is about 4.9 miles one-way, for a total of around 10 miles if you go all the way up and back down. The trail is a gradual climb up and has been re-routed from the previous version, making it a new adventure for everyone.
A big part of the fun is the many times you have to cross the meandering stream. Although this number was reduced from 44 to 26 during the rebuild, there are still plenty of chances to test your balance as you get across the water by using logs of all sizes. There are three spots where the Forest Service put in brand new bridges, too, but in other areas, you have to get a little dirty and use rocks and downed branches to get across the water. Another design change was positioning the trail up higher out of the gulch, to prevent flooding in the future.
The peak elevation on this trail is 7,010 feet. At the end of the 4.9 miles, you reach private property that overlooks Stove Prairie Road. There's a peaceful meadow to sit in and relax before turning around and heading back.
To get to Young Gulch Trail, travel 11 miles northwest of Fort Collins on U.S. Highway 287 to Colorado Highway 14. Turn left on CO 14, and travel 13 miles up the Poudre Canyon. At mile marker 109, just past the Ansel Watrous Campground, look for a Young Gulch sign on the left and a short dirt road leading to the parking lot and trailhead.