Summit County to add fees, local resident discounts for Quandary Peak shuttle system

A Summit Express shuttle carries hikers to and from the Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trailheads in August 2021. The shuttle, along with reserved parking, is part of an effort by multiple stakeholder groups to mitigate public safety issues at both trailheads.
Photo from Elaine Collins

The Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch trailhead parking and shuttle program will continue into this summer with a few changes, including riding fares and potential discounts for locals.

The Summit Board of County Commissioners discussed the shuttle program, which began last summer, at a work session meeting on Tuesday, April 5. The pilot program was successful in managing overcrowding at the popular 14er trailhead last year, prompting the county’s Open Space and Trails Department to expand it for another year.

The idea of the program was to encourage people to use public transit to get to the trailhead, which will ultimately help the county meet sustainability goals and decrease crowds in the area. This summer, the county plans to run three 14-passenger vans, potentially adding a fourth, all of which will be operated by the Summit Stage.

Last year, the county absorbed the cost of the shuttle operation, making it free for everyone who rode it. In order to expand the program and make it sustainable into the future, the county is adding a fare structure to the shuttle, Open Space and Trails director Katherine King said.

The commissioners tentatively agreed on a fee structure that would cost $15 for visitors and $5 for local riders. Those fees would be on top of the cost to park in the Breckenridge South Gondola lot, which is where the shuttle will pick up riders. Last year, the shuttle parked at the Airport Road Parking Lot.

While charging a fee for the shuttle isn’t ideal, the commissioners said it’s a part of trail management.

“There is not the federal dollars to keep up with the management of these areas and the way that now people are exploring the outdoors,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said.

The commissioners hope the discount will incentivize more residents to use the shuttle system. Only 6% of the total ridership last year were locals, according to data from a survey gathered by the Open Space and Trails Department.

The commissioners are also looking at ways to incentivize shuttle usage by changing the parking fees for the lot outside of the trailhead. Last year, the parking cost $20 for a half day or $50 for the full day.

The county is considering altering the cost of parking to be anywhere from $30 to $50 for a full day and $5 to $15 for three or four-hour blocks of time. The commissioners still need to make a final decision on the exact cost of parking, but they did agree that the parking should be free after 3 p.m., which was a suggestion from county staff.

“Some of the feedback from residents in the area was ‘What a bummer, I used to go over here and go out for an hour after work,'” King said. “So we’re trying to provide that option.”

Some of the commissioners were concerned that free parking after 3 p.m. would incentivize people to start hiking Quandary at that time, which is typically considered unsafe. Usually hikers access the McCullough Gulch trails after 3 p.m. rather than Quandary, but visitors are less likely to know that information.

“Hiking Quandary after 3 p.m. is typically more dangerous than before 3 p.m.,” King said. “I can just see the tourist that doesn’t know that saying, ‘I’m going to save myself $50, and I’m going to go at 3.'”

King and her staff agreed to put disclaimers on the county’s reservation website and at the trailheads to remind people not to hike Quandary after 3 p.m.

The shuttle system is tentatively scheduled to run seven days a week from June 15 through September 18. The commissioners will meet with the Open Space and Trails staff again in May to make final decisions on pricing and details surrounding the program.


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