You may have heard that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) clarified their e-bike regulation in the spring of 2022. But what does this change mean for Boulder County and beyond?

The short answer is, the USFS considers all types and classes of e-bikes motorized and they are not allowed on non-motorized trails. The USFS added a new motorized class just for e-bikes, but to change a USFS trail to allow e-bikes takes a public process.

The long answer is… complicated. We’ve tried to break it down as simply as we could.

  • The USFS released their updated e-bike regulations on March 31, 2022.
  • The USFS considers all classes of e-bikes to be motorized.
  • The USFS created a new class of motorized use for e-bikes that breaks out Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.
  • The decision to evaluate a trail system for e-bike use resides with the local forest or ranger district. For Boulder County, this is the Boulder Ranger District within the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland.
  • To allow Class 1 eMTBs on a current non-motorized trail, the trail designation must be reclassified from non-motorized to limited motorized: Class 1 e-bike. The trail would then be added to the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). (View North and South MVUMs for Boulder County)
  • To reclassify a non-motorized trail into a limited motorized trail will require applying the Minimization Criteria in Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule which is an agency evaluation procedure to ensure appropriately sized and environmentally and fiscally responsible road and motorized trail systems.
  • Should the local ranger district decide to evaluate e-bikes on a non-motorized system, they will have to update/amend the Travel Management Plan (TMP) for the system.
  • The TMP would include an updated Environmental Assessment and a public comment period.
  • A typical TMP takes, on average, 1-5 years to complete but it is believed that these e-bike focused TMP amendments could be expedited in some cases.
  • In Boulder and Colorado, no local ranger district has yet to start a TMP to assess e-bikes on non-motorized trails.
  • It will be easier to obtain e-bike access on trails within landscape areas that have authorization on the motorized end of the recreation opportunity spectrum (ie. semi-primitive motorized and roaded natural) versus seeking access in semi-primitive non-motorized areas where a higher degree of change would need to be made to the existing forest plan.
  • While there is very limited BLM land within Boulder County there is some, and the above process is similar to how the BLM currently approaches e-bike access (treats them as motorized and requires public process plan amendments) with only minor procedural differences. The BLM did create an exclusion for e-bikes that would allow them on nonmotorized trails.

IMBA did a great in-depth analysis of these eMTB regulations.

The map below shows USFS non-Wilderness land in light green. This area includes Peaceful Valley, Brainard Lake, East & West Magnolia, Caribou Flats, Winiger Ridge, Gordon Gulch, the Switzerland trail and Lefthand OHV. Wilderness areas are shown in dark green. BLM land is shown in yellow.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Thank you for signing up!