Breckenridge trailhead visitation up as much as 78% in 2020

A racer rides in the French Gulch area during the 2019 Breck Epic. Trail counter numbers show a large increase in Breckenridge trail use in 2020 compared with 2019.
Photo by Devon Balet / Breck Epic

It’s official: Trail visitation numbers are up in Breckenridge.

While crowding on public trails was a common complaint among residents last summer, Breckenridge’s Open Space and Trails Department quantified the uptick through trail counter data. According to data presented in a memo to the Breckenridge Town Council on March 23, the town’s popular B&B trailhead saw a 78% year-over-year increase in summer visitation and a 76% increase in winter visitation.

Summer visitation of trails in Cucumber Gulch increased by 46% in 2020 and winter visitation of the Gold Run/Peabody trailhead, a popular Nordic skiing trail, increased by 49%. The memo noted that trail counters can occasionally stop working due to running out of battery life or being knocked over but “the general trend of increased number of users on all trails in recent years is fairly obvious.”

Council members discussed the high visitation numbers at their work session March 23 as well as potential ways to mitigate trail use.

Mayor Eric Mamula and council member Jeffrey Bergeron noted the large parking lot at the B&B trailhead, citing it as possibly contributing to the reason for why visitation increased most dramatically at that location. Council member Erin Gigliello brought up ways to reduce trail use, including controlling parking and limiting shuttle service to certain trails.

“You could argue that people will park on the road, but of course the county could limit that, as well, or people would just come back and park later,” Gigliello said. “There are a lot of these hypothetical scenarios, but as far as my personal gut feeling, I do think … if you go and you can’t find a spot, you’ll go do something else, or you’ll go to a different trailhead.”

Council member Dennis Kuhn said he thinks the major increase in use of the B&B trailhead is due to the convenience of accessing it, increase in outdoor recreation amid COVID-19 and the fact that the trailhead is close to the Wellington Neighborhood, which is a workforce housing project.

Gigliello said that was by design, as the Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission has worked to put recreation options near people’s homes, but she questioned whether adding parking spaces to these neighborhood-focused trailheads is overkill when it comes to inviting people.

Mamula expressed frustration over increased parking, calling it “detrimental” to Breckenridge’s community value of being a hub where trails can be walked or biked to. Todd Rankin, a member of the Summit County Open Space Advisory Council, said that while the B&B parking lot was expanded, he doesn’t think that is the culprit because use across the trail network has blown up over the past six to seven years.

Town Manager Rick Holman said an agenda item to discuss mitigating trail use could be added to a future council work session.

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