At the last Trails Foundation board meeting, we got into a healthy debate about opening and closing trails. Right now we’re pushing hard to develop the Skyline Trail, and US Forest Service district ranger Scott Tangenberg is doing a fantastic job talking with us and helping to support this project. Scott though, like all of us, has to report to someone up the ladder. And, reading between the lines, what those people up high are saying goes something like this…”You all want to build a new trail? Fine. But first, we have to address all of the illegal trails that are already on the mountain. Until we do that…”.

What illegal trails? Some of the very well known and used trails near Snow Summit are, indeed, technically illegal. Towne Trail. Plantation Trail. Trick or Treal. Fern. Pirates. All…illegal. These are good trails, you say, and should be part of the trail system. The Forest Service does realize this, and they are actually working to make some of these aforementioned trails 100% legal, on the books, and supported by the government. However, these trails are just a small part of the illegal trails that the Forest Service is really worried about. And their worries become our problems.

It just might come down to a choice: if we want to build new trails like Skyline, we might have to destroy some illegal trails. Kind of like a trade with the Forest Service. The Trails Foundation board members bantered back and forth about the moral rights and wrongs of building, using, supporting, and destroying illegal trails. Heck, our mission is to build trails…not destroy them. However, we do have an obligation to be a leader in the community and support the right way to do things. And the right way is definitely not illegal trails. Oh my.

To put a face on this illegal trail issue, we spent a couple of Wednesdays checking out a section in which the Forest Service has expressed concern: five downhill mountain bike trails that all end on Towne Trail.

Number of Illegal Trails: 5
Average Distance of Trail: 3/10 mile
Average Elevation Gail/Loss of Trail: 400 feet
Average Trail User: Mountain Biker

This is just the bottom section of these trails; there are a couple connectors that link up to these 5 trails from above near 2N10. After riding these trails on a bike, and then hiking them all on foot, I personally formed two opinions:

1. These are stuffed next to each other. The length of the Towne Trail that all of these illegal trail connect with is no longer than the length of the Snow Summit parking lot. That’s a lot of trails in a small area. Which would be ok if the trails were really good. However…

2. These trails stink. Granted, I am not a hardcore downhill mountain biker. But, I’ve a really good feeling that the true downhill afficionados out there would not look kindly upon these trails. They are loose dirt chutes that run straight downhill. Straight. Downhill. You can’t help but slide the entire way down. Every trail building rule in the book has been thrown out or ignored. Not all is completely bad; there were a couple small sections on the “Axe” trail and the “Creek” trail that were fantastic and a blast to ride and hike. The vast majority, though, are just…not fun.

The above comments are, as noted earlier, just opinions. We would love to hear from local community members who have ridden or hiked these trails. Are they good? Bad? Worth keeping? Throw them out? Should the Trails Foundation be involved in destroying trails? Should we have to trade destroying bad trails for building new, good ones? And who should decide if a trail is “good”?

Driz Cook