~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Local hikers and visitors can finally trek up the back side of Pikes Peak, near Divide, and enjoy a popular dog-friendly recreational playground,
But at the same time, they must observe caution when using this area. They also should take advantage of this opportunity within the next two months, as future closures are forthcoming again.
That’s the advice of Forest Service officials in announcing the partial reopening of the Crags area and Forest Road 383, located outside Divide, in signaling the green light for accessing and using this outdoor mecca for hiking this summer. The Crags campground, which sports close to 20 paid overnight spots, could open soon.
According to the Pikes Peak Ranger District of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, the Crags is now open for hiking and for motorized access to this area off Forest Road 383, which can be reached from Hwy. 67, several miles south of Divide.
But due to the large number of hazard trees that pose a safety concern to the public, dispersed camping and parking along Forest Road 383 is prohibited. Camping will be allowed only in the developed Crags campground, when it opens within the next few weeks, and parking is allowed only at designated trailheads and within the campground. Visitors are urged to take extra precautions when recreating in the area this summer due to the large number of hazard trees in the vicinity, according to Forest Service officials.
The area had been closed for the past six months while a timber contractor removed some of the dead or dying spruce trees in a 12 acre area along a section of Forest Road 383 that had been affected by the spruce bark beetle, note Forest Service officials. By working over the snow with heavy equipment, the contractor was able to reduce impacts to soils.
This could just mark the start of extended work planned in the Crags area, which has been invaded by bug infestation problems that have killed hundreds of trees
Visitors will continue to notice significant changes over the next few years as more spruce trees succumb to the natural beetle infestation, according to a Forest Service press release. Additional forest health projects, including timber removal, will necessitate future closures for public safety in the Crags area beginning in the fall of 2017, according to the Forest Service.
An ongoing forest health project and hazard tree removal work effort was recently accomplished by U.S. Forest Service crews in the Crags campground and at the three trailheads along Forest Road 383, which provides access for the Crags, Devil’s Playground and the Ring the Peak trails. This set the stage for the partial reopening of the area this summer. This project encompassed more than 1,000 dead trees and was more involved than the contract of a year ago.
The Crags has been hampered by closures in the last two years.
Originally, the Crags area was scheduled to be reopened by Memorial Day weekend 2017. But this deadline could not be met due to safety concerns.
Regardless of the camping restrictions, the Crags partial reopening is a good bonus for local tourism and for hikers and recreation buffs. Visitors are often directed to this area because of the mild terrain, location and the panoramic views of surrounding lakes and mountain ranges.
It also offers the most direct route up Pikes Peak, via the Devil’s Playground. Plus, the Crags is an off-the-beaten track favorite for picnicking and recreating with your family, friends and canines along a plethora of secluded trails and stream areas.
For more information, please contact the Pikes Peak Ranger District at (719) 636-1602. Information about alternate camping and recreation areas can also be found on: www.recreation.gov or, the Pike-San Isabel National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/psicc