Hay Park - 9,980 acres (15.6 square miles)
The proposed Hay Park Wilderness Addition occupies a large, mid-elevation area of rolling slopes on the northeast flanks of the massive Mount Sopris. This broad upland shield is heavily forested with spruce and fir and impressively large aspen stands. Many large open meadows exist within the forested areas and provide great views. Gambel oak brush is also common in the lower reaches of this proposed area. Many lakes, mostly small, dot the hillsides.
The glacier-formed cirques of Mount Sopris dominate views from the area, and enormous rock glaciers generate the streams of Nettle, Prince, and Thomas Creeks, which flow into the Crystal River. East and West Sopris Creeks also flow through the area on their way to the Roaring Fork River. Elevations range from 6,700 feet near the Crystal River to 10,492 feet on the divide between these two Creeks.
What's special about it?
The proposed Hay Park Wilderness Area lies in the center of an area of heavy recreational activity. Mount Sopris and Thomas Lakes are an extremely popular destination for hikers, backpackers, and backcountry skiers. This is a popular access point into the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area. Large herds of elk occupy the Elk Mountain Ridge southeast of Mount Sopris and rely on the mid-elevation habitats provided by the Hay Park area during spring and fall. Mid-elevation areas such as this are largely unprotected on public lands, but are especially critical for wildlife that use them as transitional zones between their high-elevation summer and low-elevation winter ranges. A significant amount of elk calving occurs here, and West Sopris Creek supports a fishery for Colorado River cutthroat trout - a CDOW species of special concern. Nettle Creek is the Town of Carbondale's principle water source.
There was historical timber harvesting in this area, although none has occurred recently. The area has been identified as having a moderate potential for oil and gas deposits and was leased in 1981 though the leases were withdrawn two years later. The area is still available for leasing. Just to the north of Hay Park lies the Crown, an increasing popular piece of BLM land that is sprouting mountain bike and dirt bike trails faster than land managers can inventory them. Experience shows that that appetite and ingenuity of these user groups quickly leads to expanding trail networks that could significantly degrade the wild character of the area.
Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
This area lies next to Mt. Sopris and the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. It contains aspen, spruce-fir, open meadows, and riparian corridors along West Sopris, Prince, and Thomas Creeks. Its primary value is for elk production as well as mule deer and elk summer range. A variety of avian species including blue grouse inhabit the area. Black bear inhabit the area in the summer and fall. Due to its varied habitat types including from aspen, open meadows, spruce-fir, and riparian areas it has tremendous value for a variety of wildlife species.
CDOW management recommendations: This area should remain roadless to protect elk production and summer habitat areas.
In light of its high popularity with mountain bikers, the Hay Park and Buzzard Basin trails were drawn out of the proposed wilderness to accommodate this popular use. In early 2010 several ranchers requested that approximately 5,000 acres of land be added to the proposal northeast of the original Hay Park Area, to protect it from increased recreational pressures. We added the lands but kept the Hay Park and Buzzard Basin trails out of the proposal.
How to get there
The proposed Hay Park Addition to the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area is located 5 miles SW of Basalt and 6 miles SE of Carbondale. The primary access to the area is from Dinkle Lake.
- From Basalt, go west on State Highway (SH) 82 to Emma, and take Sopris Creek Road (County Road 7) to West Sopris Creek Road (CR 6). Follow this to the Sopris/Prince Creek divide, turn south, and head to Dinkle Lake on FS 311. This location can also be reached from Carbondale via Prince Creek Road (CR 5).
- From Dinkle Lake, enter the area on foot or mountain bike via the Thomas Lakes Trail (1958). This trail leads up to the Thomas Lakes and beyond to Mount Sopris. The Hay Park Trail (1957) branches off of the Thomas Lakes Trail to the southeast, crossing Hay Park and East Sopris Creek on its way to the Capitol Creek Road (CR 9).
- To reach Hay Park Trail (1957) from the east, take SH 82 east from Basalt to Old Snowmass. Turn south on Snowmass Creek Road (CR 11) and bear right onto Capitol Creek Road (CR 9) at the fork. Look for the trailhead parking area on your right, after the road becomes dirt.
- The USGS 7 1⁄2' quads for the Hay Park roadless area are Mount Sopris, Basalt, and Capitol Peak.
The Hay Park RA is one of six RAs that surround the large Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area and create a roadless complex of over 206,000 acres (321 square miles). The Hay Park Trail has been adopted by a local bike club, and it is a very popular ride, particularly in the autumn when the aspens leaves turn. In light of this, the Hay Park Trail was drawn out of the proposed wilderness to accomodate this popular use.