Hikers on Frisco’s Meadow Creek Trail; a plan in the works promises to stitch together and improve the town’s patchwork of summer trails.

Image: Ryan Dearth

When it comes to mountain living, you could argue the town of Frisco has it all, from a scenic lakefront marina with a forest of sailboat masts to alpine wilderness that’s literally steps from a lively Main Street crowded with restaurants, pubs, boutiques, and cafés. But every time the town surveys its residents about their quality of life, one blemish always gets voiced: the lack of a cohesive, well-built summer trail network.

An 807-acre wedge of open space jutting into Lake Dillon north of the Adventure Park, Frisco’s Peninsula Recreation Area offers postcard views and enough vertical relief to provide vast opportunity for cyclists, runners, and hikers, but the trails, save for a few exceptions, are a rat’s nest of fall-line ruts compared to the flowy, well-planned and maintained networks you’ll find elsewhere in Summit County. What few routes exist weave together without much signage, so it’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t already. Unless you live within riding distance, most Summit locals view the Peninsula—a portion of which the town leases from the US Forest Service—as an early-season bonus but little more.

In the spring of 2016, a group began meeting to change that. More than 100 local mountain bikers, hikers, and runners showed up to voice their opinions—in exchange for free beer—at a series of open-house meetings. With help from a local planning firm, they created a town trails plan, not only to identify their priorities on dirt, but also to conceive of ways to travel through town without cars. The plan identified where and how the Peninsula’s trails could be improved and linked to the bounty of trails in the hills south of town, a.k.a. Frisco’s Backyard. There, a network of fast—and relatively unknown and unmaintained—singletrack darts through Forest Service land to Farmers Korner and beyond, intersecting with the Colorado Trail (a.k.a. Miners Creek) along the way.  For the most part, it remains unsigned and off maps.

This summer, Frisco expects to submit a master development plan to the Forest Service proposing a range of improvements to its trail network. “If I look long term, I think there are quite a few opportunities,” says Assistant Town Manager Diane McBride, Frisco’s director of recreation. “I don’t know if we’ll end up with more mileage, but we’ll end up with better mileage.”

The full scale of projects would take years to complete, and the town has focused on gaining the Forest Service’s trust, first and foremost. Should that relationship yield results, locals and visitors could be enjoying a vastly improved Frisco trail network sooner than later.

“I think the potential is phenomenal,” says Noah Brautigam, a designer with Morton Trails, a Vermont-based consulting firm working on the project. “It’s a beautiful setting, it’s really close to town, and it’s got really good terrain. There’s enough acreage to make it a much better experience.”

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