Indian Peaks Traverse

Indian Peaks Traverse

Imagine a trail through the Indian Peaks connecting Boulder County and Grand County, winding from the foothills of the Front Range across the high peaks of Colorado and down to the beautiful valleys of Winter Park. Imagine a trail composed of great segments that are perfect for day hikers and riders of all kinds (equestrians and mountain bikers alike), with dispersed camping for visitors to the trail. Imagine a 60-mile continuous expanse of trail that endurance riders and runners can do in one long, blissful stretch.

Imagine the Indian Peaks Traverse (IPT)!

Day Trips and Long Distance Trips

Plan an out-and-back from either end of the IPT (or somewhere in between) and enjoy a backcountry adventure of any length. Front Rangers can even use the bus from Boulder to shuttle up to Nederland and ride, hike or run up to the Continental Divide and back down to Boulder! There’s something for everyone on the IPT.

Backpackers and Bike Packers!

Leave your home, walk or ride to the trailhead, and head off into the woods for a long-distance adventure. Take advantage of great dispersed camping along the way, and enjoy a quick stop in Nederland for a coffee or cold beer before dropping into Boulder or Winter Park. Or vice versa, of course!

Endurance Riders, Equestrians, and Trail Runners

A phenomenal point to point, the IPT will be roughly 60 miles of backcountry bliss. Bring your credit card, crash at a cush hotel (preferably with a hot tub!) in Boulder or Winter Park, and head back home the next day.

The Route – Now and in the Future

The Indian Peaks Traverse is possible today, though much of the route is on roads open to cars. Check it on MTB Project or Trailforks.

After Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) killed the Eldo-to-Walker trail connection, hopes of an east/west trail from Boulder into the mountains were dashed. The IPT will likely remain on Chapman Drive up Flagstaff Road to 68J for years to come, but there are still some section west of Gross Resevoir that have an opportunity for improvement.

The biggest missing connector now is the connection from the trail through Tolland Ranch to Jenny Creek road.

Segment 1: Boulder to Walker Ranch

The Current Route:
Currently, you must hike, run, or ride up the Boulder Canyon Path and SH 119/Boulder Canyon Drive to the Chapman Drive Trailhead. Chapman Drive is a historic dirt road that takes you up almost 1,000 feet over 2.6 miles to the intersection of Flagstaff Drive and Flagstaff Summit Road. At this point, you have to go up and over Flagstaff Drive on the road to get to the Walker Ranch Trailhead.

The Future Vision:
Discussions have halted about creating a completely off-road connector from Eldorado Canyon State Park to Walker Ranch. While such a connection already exists for pedestrian traffic, this new trail was envisioned as a multi-use trail accessible to hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. This trail opportunity would not only eliminate all road sections of IPT Segment 1, but would allow for the construction of a more rustic backcountry experience than Chapman Drive.

Segment 2: Walker Ranch to Peak to Peak

The Current Route:
From the main Walker Ranch Trailhead, head west on Flagstaff Road until it turns into Lakeshore Drive at the intersection with Gross Dam Road. Take Lakeshore Drive west and continue on County Road 68J, which becomes a more rugged jeep road that climbs and then descends toward the USFS Forsythe Canyon Trailhead. Continue up County Road 68 (no longer 68J) until it dead ends into Magnolia Road and turn west. Less than two miles west on Magnolia Road you will intersect Front Range Road or USFS Road 357, turn north on this road which ends at the Front Range Trailhead. From the Front Range Trailhead you can access singletrack all the way to the West Magnolia/Peak-to-Peak Trailhead, on Blue Dot, Lollypop, Reboot, and Boot Trails. Be careful in here as there are many poorly signed trails intersecting your route, including neighborhood access trails.

The Future Vision:
There are many opportunities to improve this segment of the IPT. Some are already in the works, including proposed new trails in the Magnolia Non-Motorized Trails Project, although additional study by Boulder County Parks and Open Space is needed to determine all future trail alignments. The Walker Ranch Management Plan allows for a crossing of Tom Davis Gulch from the main Walker Ranch Trailhead, to help realize the goal of a regional trail connection, and the Denver Water Board’s property around Gross Reservoir currently includes singletrack that could be used to extend this regional trail. There may be other opportunities to extend singletrack trails in this segment, but since much of this segment passes next to private property, the main IPT alignment will necessarily use county roads.

Segment 3: Peak to Peak to the top of School Bus Trail

The Current Route:
From the West Magnolia/Peak-to-Peak Trailhead, go west on the newly rebuilt Aspen Alley Trails all the way to the far western end of Haulk Road. Cross the road at this point and take the newly re-built Lookout Trail and make your way over to Hobbit 3. At the intersection of Hobbit 3 and Hobbit 2, hug the USF 355 road until it intersects the USF 105 road. This is where you pick up the beginning of the School Bus Trail, which will take you up about 1,000’ where it intersects the USFS 105 road again.

The Future Vision:
As trails are repaired, rerouted, or reclaimed winthin the Boulder Ranger District’s Magnolia Non-Motorized Trails Project the current route may change somewhat. Most importantly, however, is that the USFS Magnolia Project explicitly allows for the development of a *NEW* climbing-optimized trail to get to the top of the Schoolbus Trail, which would improve the IPT experience.

Segment 4: Top of School Bus Trail to Corona Pass

The Current Route:
While there are trails from the top of Schoolbus heading west, all of them trespass on private property. Consequently, the only legal option to continue west is to head southeast down the USFS 105 road towards Rollinsville. From Rollinsville head west on the East Portal or Tolland Road to the intersection with Rollins Pass Road. Take Rollins Pass Road to the intersection with USFS 502, which merges with Jenny Creek Road, or USFS 808. AT Yankee Doodle Lake, turn onto Boulder Wagon Road, or USFS 502, to get to the top of Rollins Pass. As easier route is possible by staying on the Rollins Pass Road all the way to Rollins Pass.

The Future Vision:
In 2015, the Conservation Fund bought an easement across the private property west of the Schoolbus Trail that allows for the creation of a singletrack trail that connecting from the eastern edge of the private property all the way to the Jenny Creek Trail. This trail skirts to the north of Buckeye Mountain and the south of the Eldora Nordic trails. This allows IPT users to avoid heading back down to Rollinsville, and eliminates any need for this segment of the IPT to go along a developed road. The trail through Tolland Ranch opened in the summer of 2023 but currently there is no legal easment between the western terminus and Jenny Creek Trail. 

Segment 5: Corona Pass to Winter Park

The Current Route:
It’s time to begin your descent into Winter Park. Ride across the train tressel to the summit of the pass. Head down the west side of the pass to the Rifle Sight notch about 4 miles down, pick up the superfun singletrack on the left just below the old tressel. Cross the road where this trail takes you to Broken Thumb. Broken Thumb leads to Twisted Ankle and a myriad of options down into Winter Park.

The Future Vision:
The Headwaters Trail Alliance is working on the Ute Trail to cut out a lot of the road section after you cross the pass making it a phenomenal single track descent.

The Vision

The vision of the Indian Peaks Traverse began with a committed group of outdoor enthusiasts in the Boulder area. While Boulder County has a wonderful collection of trail systems, there has long been a desire among passive recreationists to connect some of these great routes and provide for longer-distance adventures. Many of us have enjoyed iconic routes like the Colorado Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Kokopelli Trail, the John Muir Trail, and others, and we’ve dreamed of creating a similar experience in our own backyard. Thus, the vision of the Indian Peaks Traverse—an official route (mostly off-road) connecting the Front Range foothills to the high peaks of Grand County—was born.

Regional Connectivity

The IPT itself is part of a greater vision. It’s an important piece of regional trail connectivity in the Front Range and has the potential to be a link in a vast trail system connecting communities far and wide. The eastern end of the IPT would connect to the proposed Rocky Mountain Greenway, which will ultimately connect Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Rocky Flats, and Rocky Mountain National Park. The IPT will also link to the Colorado Front Range Trail which will eventually connect New Mexico to Wyoming across 15 cities. And, of course, the IPT crosses and connects to the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

There are also many existing and proposed regional trails in Boulder County and Grand County that would allow a growing list of communities to access this regional trail network from their homes. Together, these trails could form an amazing loop from Denver to Estes Park, Grand Lake, Winter Park, Boulder and back to Denver. It’s a far-reaching vision for sure, but it’s an exciting one—and the IPT is a critical piece of the puzzle.

The History

There’s long been a contingent of hardy souls who trail run or mountain bike over the Continental Divide from Boulder to Winter Park (and back). The adventurous route is amazing and challenging, but it’s also riddled with access issues and informal trail connections that make for difficult route finding.

A cadre of committed adventurers began to work with the four agencies that manage the land surrounding the IPT—Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department (BCPOS), Boulder Ranger District (BRD) of the United States Forest Service, City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department (OSMP), and Eldorado Canyon State Park—in order to improve the route and the experience. Over the course of more than a decade, the grassroots movement behind the IPT has advocated for the planning and building of trail segments that will contribute to the proposed IPT.

As a result of consistent engagement in the public process, almost all of the pieces necessary to build the IPT are in planning or in place. Once the USFS finishes an alignment to connect the core West Magnolia Trails with the Toll property, we will have a world class recreational trail that provides a long-distance, multi-use experience from Boulder County to Grand County—with regional connectivity beyond.

 Additional IPT News

Toll Trail Update

Toll Trail Update

Boulder County Parks & Open Space’s Justin Atherton-Wood gave a presentation at the June 24 POSAC Meeting on the new Toll Trail that will connect West Mag to Jenny Creek.

read more

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