Construction will be "ramping up" this summer on a new trail to the top of Pikes Peak.
That's how Jennifer Peterson describes plans for the third season of realigning the Devil's Playground route on the backside of the 14,115-foot mountain.
"We're anticipating 100 (work) days this year," said Peterson, executive director of project-coordinating Rocky Mountain Field Institute. "And we're really getting back to some steady volunteer opportunities."
Those opportunities last year were cut back due to COVID-19, she said. This summer, the nonprofit institute's professional crews expect to team up with groups like Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and Colorado Mountain Club, while also partnering again with Mile High Youth Corps.
The plan is to build a half-mile of new trail and clear another quarter-mile of wooded corridor for building next summer.
Since breaking ground in 2019, about 1 1/2 miles of trail have been "rough cut," Peterson said. The blueprint calls for 4 miles of new trail, starting in the trees close to where the current Devil's Playground trail splits from the Crags trail.
The path — a popular, shorter alternate to the summit opposite of Barr Trail — has long been a concern of land managers and local stewards. With more foot traffic over the years, they say the steep, incised fall line is deepening and widening on the tundra, posing safety risks to hikers and further damage to the ecosystem.
The new summiting path will trend south of that scar, ascending more steadily. The plan adds about a mile to the current one-way trip.
"The reroute is a little bit longer," Peterson said. "But the word I keep using is sublime. The new trail will be much more sustainable, much more pleasant for users, much more resilient and safe."
The goal is to finish the reroute in 2023, then move on to closing and revegetating the old trail corridor.
Rocky Mountain Field Institute spent the last six years rerouting a summiting path on another 14,000-foot peak: Kit Carson in the state's southern Sangre de Cristo range.
"These types of projects are slow-going," Peterson said. "There's a lot to do."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and National Forest Foundation grants are largely funding the project.