An outdoor enthusiast can spend a lifetime in San Miguel County and still not discover every trail within the area. Between officially managed trails and pathways that have been carved by the curious over the years, the regional trail system is a spider web of clearly marked routes and if-you-know-you-know spots.
With more recreationists visiting the area to get outside, and the lack of a comprehensive trail map, local Joan May decided to create one. The map, which is available online, highlights the legal trails in the immediate Telluride, Mountain Village and Lawson Hill areas.
“You look at the history of our area and trails, and back in the day, when people like Chuck Kroger built trails where he wanted trails, it was great because it was mostly for locals and they can figure it out. But now we have so many more visitors that are looking for a safe, comfortable trail experience to enjoy the beautiful mountains, and they want to make sure that they’re not trespassing and find trails,” she said.
A legal trail is one that has gone through a public process, including surveying the area, considering environmental impacts and collecting input from experts, if needed.
“It’s not to say that nobody should ever go wandering on their own and look for other trails, they’re welcomed to do that on federal public lands, you just can’t do that on private property,” May added.
The new trail map — a collaboration between the towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, Lawson Hill, San Miguel County and U.S. Forest Service — aims to educate as much as anything, especially if people aren’t familiar with the mountainous terrain and what that entails.
“What a visitor may need to know that they might not know is everything’s hard here. We’re in the San Juans at 9,000 feet above sea level; a beginner trail might not be a beginner trail for everybody,” May said.
There is also information on best leave-no-trace practices, as well as areas where dogs are and aren’t allowed. Bike trails, which mostly mimic hiking trails, are also marked.
“Most of our trials that are hiking are also biking, so we felt like we needed to let people know that. It’s intended primarily as a hiking map, but pretty much all the biking trails are also on it,” May said.
Officials have been providing feedback recently, including during the Telluride Open Space Commission Monday, though there hasn’t been any major changes, May explained.
“The feedback I’ve gotten has been super positive. The jurisdictions working on it are very grateful to have something like this,” she said, adding combating the misconception that the map will list unofficial social trails and routes is just as important as getting the word out about the project.
During the June 7 Telluride Open Space Commission meeting, Sheep Mountain Alliance Executive Director Lexi Tuddenham called the map a “necessary step to limiting those impacts and educating our visitors and keeping them safe.” Commissioner members were in support of the idea, as well as the Telluride Mountain Club, May explained at the meeting.
While other similar resort communities have trail councils that focus on providing such information, this map was a passion project that “gained some traction,” May said. She added the current version of the trail map is a good starting point, and there are plans to eventually have print maps available to distribute to businesses and organizations who can share them with people visiting.
“We’re really hoping that by next year, we’ve worked out any kinks and things that have to be corrected, and will be more of an online map that also has a printed version. … This is just the first step,” she said.
“ … Plain and simple, we’re trying to make it so people don’t get lost and destroy the resources, including search and rescue. It’s not good for anybody for visitors being here trying to hike and getting lost.”
The current version of the map, which was designed by Tor Anderson, can be found at telluride.com/hikingtrails.