Woman cross-country skiing in the woods.

County approves new Spring Gulch upper parking lot

Provides quick access to the upper trails of the Nordic system west of Carbondale

May 11, 2023

Garfield County has approved a limited impact review land use change permit application for a new parking lot off Marion Cemetery Road at the Spring Gulch Nordic skiing area west of Carbondale. The application was submitted by the Mount Sopris Nordic Council (MSNC) and the North Thompson Cattlemen’s Association, which manage and own the property, respectively.

The trail system is home to 18 miles of trail that is utilized by Nordic ski enthusiasts in winter. The applicants noted that increased popularity and use of the area, located off North Thompson Creek Road, combined with impacts of climate change (less days of operation, warmer shoulder seasons, and drought) have made the new “north” lot vital to the continued success of the system.

“Historically, the Spring Gulch trailhead parking lot would only reach its (roughly) 75-vehicle capacity during busy weekends,” the application notes. “Now, it is not uncommon for it to reach capacity during weekdays as well.”

Recreationalists have been accessing the higher elevation areas from Marion Cemetery Road, cutting bandit trails into the snow to reach the system, rather than crossing through mud at the base near the current parking area. The new parking lot, which is home to roughly 60 spaces, is located a quarter mile east of the Marion Gulch trailhead and is proposed to be open for the 2023-‘24 season.
“This new trailhead will keep trail users from parking along the county road and from clogging lots that are intended to serve other recreational users in other recreational areas,” said Garfield County Community Development Senior Planner Phillip Berry.

Community development staff recommended approval of the project with conditions, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s recommendation that the lot not be open to seasonal use before Dec. 1 each season.

The application was approved unanimously, 3-0.

“It’ll get a lot of use and be a great blessing enjoyed by a lot of people,” said Commissioner Mike Samson.