Fourteener summit trails are built of available rocks, logs, and soils found in high alpine environments. Heavy winter snows, violent summer thunderstorms, and the impacts of an estimated half-million hikers annually take a heavy toll on even the most sturdily constructed summit trails. To keep these summit trails in great shape, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative enlists volunteer stewardship organizations, local businesses, youth summer camps, college programs, and other groups of organized volunteers to perform routine trail maintenance through the Adopt-a-Peak program. This active stewardship work protects trail structures, controls erosion, and restores denuded areas. Since 2001, more than 9,200 volunteer days have been performed.
CFI has been working since 2011 to develop a GIS-based trail conditions modeling program that will assess the severity of natural resource problems and track the conditions over time on constructed and user-created summit trails. The Sustainable Trails Program is helping CFI prioritize future maintenance projects and will ensure that limited funding and volunteer efforts are focused on the highest priority projects to build out and maintain the network of summit trails on the 14ers. To date, 43 summit or approach trails have been inventoried. Click here to watch a Google Earth video flyover showing the condition of the Capitol Peak trail. In 2014, CFI began tracking visitor use to correlate on-the-ground impacts with the amount of hiker use. In July 2016, CFI released the first ever report on “14er Hiking Use and Economic Impact” which estimated that 260,000 hikers visited Colorado’s 14ers in 2015. The traffic data was then paired with research done by CSU Professors John Loomis and Catherine Keske – which found that Fourteener climbers in 2009 spent an average of $271.17 per trip (food, equipment, lodging, etc.) to reveal a statewide economic impact of $70.5 million generated by 14er hikers annually. Read more about the report here.