Steep climbs and rowdy descents.
The Lefthand OHV (LHOHV) recreation area is a designated system of OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) trails and roads managed by the US Forest Service’s Boulder Ranger District (BRD). After the 2013 Flood damaged some of the trails, the area has been closed to motorized use. It was reopened to non-motorized recreation in 2016 and has become a mecca for mountain bikers who like steep rowdy downhills.
Threats to Mountain Bike Access
The BRD can close LHOHV to all use again if certain conditions are met.
- Cars or groups of people that block the bike lane or roadway create unsafe conditions. Please park at Buckingham Park or where permitted along the road and make sure your car tires are completely off the pavement.
Public Safety Hazard
- Severe mountain bike injuries leading to rescues and evacuations could cause the BRD to deem the area a public safety hazard.
Non-Sanctioned Trail Creation
- 36 CFR 261.10(a) states it is a class B misdemeanor to create or alter trails without authorization, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail. Unsanctioned trails often cross private property, cause sediment erosion to drainages and contaminate water supplies, enter sensitive flora and fauna areas, and damage cultural resources.
- LHOHV does not have an off-trail travel rule, meaning it is legal for you to travel (by foot or on a bicycle) anywhere in the area on designated trails or off-trail.
What was LHOHV like prior to the 2013 Flood?
LHOHV has long had a reputation for being a lawless wild west area. Before the 2012 order, LHOHV was open to shooting and OHVs. Carnage Canyon was a popular place with recreational shooters, resulting in resource damage and trash left behind, including items used as targets (TVs, computers, bowling pins, etc.) and spent shell casings. Some off-highway vehicle operators strayed off designated routes, causing new social trail/road creation, which the FS attempted to reign in and remove with help from volunteers (wire cables were installed at one point in an effort to stop off-route travel). High schoolers used the area for parties and several human-caused fires burned parts of the area. OHV groups organized annual clean-ups (entire roll-off dumpster were often filled with trash) as well as trail building and maintenance on trails like Bon Scott.
Mountain bikers have been in the mix since at least the 1990’s, dodging bullets and sharing roads with Jeeps to get their downhill fixes.
Will LHOHV ever reopened to motorized recreation?
Several OHV groups are pressuring the BRD to reopen the area to motorized recreation. The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), supported by the state chapter Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVC), helped co-write a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) OHV Planning Grant application to start the process to assess whether or not the area can be reopened for OHV use. The grant was approved in April 2021 and the USFS will move forward with assessing the area for motorized recreation use.
What's a Planning Grant?
A planning grant would fund the BRD to do a full assessment and inventory of the area and collaborate with stakeholders to find a preferred travel management plan. Further grants/money would be needed for the NEPA process and construction. A November 2019 planning grant application was denied by CPW, and a new November 2020 grant was applied for. There is no timeline for when the planning process would start if the grant is approved.
What's been BMA's involvement?
BMA has not been involved in LHOHV trail construction or maintenance to this date. We have offered trail building volunteers to the BRD to fix ruts and braiding issues but were denied access. We are aware of the area’s popularity with Front Range mountain bikers and when there is a public process to formalize a travel management plan, BMA will advocate to keep all existing trails as is and open to mountain bikers.
What Does BMA Think of Reopening LHOHV to Motorized Use?
The BMA board of directors recognizes that the motorized community has put volunteer time, effort and dollars into an area that they are now banned from. There are currently no other nearby legal motorized singletrack trails in the Boulder Ranger District. BMA has never advocated against another user group. As mountain bikers often shut out of other trail areas, we do not feel it is right to advocate against reopening to motorized use in this area. We hope that during the public process, we can collaborate together with the motorized community to create a shared trail system, as well as advocate for some trails to stay non-motorized.
Primarily an off-roading and shooting area.
USFS approved the Lefthand Canyon OHV Travel Management Plan, which was not fully implemented. The plan called for the creation of a main trailhead, which was never built. Creation of this trailhead would have provided for OHV access to this day.
Area re-opened to non-motorized recreation.
BRD and NOHVCC applied for CPW Planning Grant.
Grant was not approved.