The Fourteeners Initiative hires crews and youth corps and utilizes volunteers to maintain, reroute and repair the trails that take hikers to the high country. Conditions are sometimes dangerous and always difficult to conduct much needed trail maintenance.
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) was established in 1994. CFI is the nation’s leading high-altitude trail-building, terrain-restoration, and visitor-education organization. CFI has built 39 sustainably located, designed, and constructed summit routes on 35 peaks, with its work garnering honors and awards from Congress, the US Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, and other organizations.
People come from all over the world to climb Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, and the state has seen a major increase in visitation. Many trails are badly degraded from environmental conditions as well as increased usage. The Fourteeners Initiative hires crews and youth corps and utilizes volunteers to maintain, reroute and repair the trails that take hikers to the high country. Conditions are sometimes dangerous and always difficult to conduct much needed trail maintenance. The crews work quickly and efficiently during the short high-altitude season, and their results are well established.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife awarded this grant to the organization in 2018 with RTP Diversified and Non-Motorized funds. Work was completed in late summer 2020. Specifically for this project, CFI hired and deployed eight experienced trail crew leaders to directly perform and/or oversee volunteers working to perform 14.15 miles of routine trail maintenance. This includes 2.2 miles of more intensive trail reconstruction within existing trail corridors. They closed, stabilized and restored 2.86 miles of old social trails on nineteen 14,000-foot peaks across Colorado, sixteen of which are on US Forest Service-administered land and three of which are on Bureau of Land Management-administered lands.
The trail maintenance work addressed high hiker use, extremely severe weather and erosive forces on the trails, and exceptionally severe damage to fragile alpine vegetation. Typically, CFI crews put in an estimated 1,500 volunteers days per season. Without proper maintenance, hikers are more likely to leave a primary trail to seek more stable footing, creating new social trails to the summits that further threaten native plants and fragment critical wildlife habitat.
Crews utilized native rocks and logs near the trail for use in installing check steps, waterbars, and staircases on steep trail sections, as well as retaining walls on areas with steep cross slopes. Native fill soil and hand-crushed rocks were used to bring trails up to grade and assist with trailside restoration. Plug transplants and over-seeding with native plants was used to restore closed trail braids and restore the areas adjacent to the trails to natural conditions.
Colorado’s population is 5.8 million people according to the 2020 Census.
The number of hikers on Colorado's fourteeners in 2020 increased 44% over the previous year to a record of 415,000. Quandary Peak alone had an estimate of 49,000 hikers.*
Cost to bring routes to desired, long-term sustainable condition: $18.4 million needed to improve 56 14er summit/approach routes.
Separate attachment shows graphics provided by CFI, showing accomplishments for their 2020 season, as well as photos of trail conditions and crew members on the job. These crews work tirelessly high up in the alpine tundra of Colorado’s 14ers, where the work season is short and conditions can be brutal. Colorado Parks and Wildlife highly recommends the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative for this award.
*Data provided by CFI’s annual hiking use estimate report, released in June, 2021.
2020: Cal-Ida connector Trail
2012: Lombard Trail - Idaho
2007: Cary Bayou Trail - Texas
2006: Wyoming State Trail Crew