TELLURIDE – After a seven-year effort by the U.S. Forest Service and the Trust for Public Land, the new 3.7-mile Rock of Ages Trail, which restores public access to Wilson Peak in the Lizard Head Wilderness, is now open.
“We are thrilled to open this new trail that will allow climbers to hike through Silver Pick Basin on their way to Wilson Peak,” said Norwood District Ranger Judy Schutza. “Public access would not have been restored without the efforts of The Trust for Public Land who purchased key private parcels on Wilson Peak and in Silver Pick Basin.”
In July of 2004, a traditional route to Wilson Peak through private lands in Silver Pick Basin was closed. During the ensuing years, the Forest Service joined forces with The Trust for Public Land to restore public access. San Miguel County, the Telluride Mountain Club and the Colorado Mountain Club were also key players in this effort.
In October of 2007, TPL took a significant step toward restoring public access by purchasing 230 acres of private land in Silver Pick Basin, including key parcels on the southwest ridge of Wilson Peak. The Forest Service made further progress in August of 2009 by completing the environmental analysis for the Rock of Ages Trail, however a trail easement across a private parcel in the upper basin was still needed to fully restore access. In May of 2011, the Forest Service obtained the needed trail easement. Construction of a new trailhead parking facility and access road were completed this week.
“We're very excited to have reached this most important stage in the process,” said Jason Corzine, senior project manager with TPL. “Restoring and preserving public access to this iconic peak has been TPL's main goal from the beginning.” TPL continues to own the property they purchased in 2007 and is working to convey that land to the Forest Service.
Wilson Peak is among three 14,000-plus foot peaks in the Lizard Head Wilderness that annually draw thousands of climbing enthusiasts. The new Rock of Ages Trail provides a shorter route to these peaks than is currently offered by existing trails.
A trail map and directions to the new Rock of Ages trailhead are posted on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/gmug" www.fs.usda.gov/gmug under “Highlights.”