All-terrain vehicle enthusiasts in Carbon County can now legally enjoy riding more than 90 miles of trail which have been declared open for off-highway vehicle use.
County commissioners approved an ordinance opening two sections for ATV use on Aug. 16.
In addition to OHV use, the approved routes are also open for horses, motorized vehicles and foot traffic.
Both routes follow existing county right-of-ways and are comprised of gravel roads which are regularly maintained by heavy road equipment.
The longer section, a 50-mile loop, opens an area which has already seen heavy ATV use.
The loop begins with an eight-mile course from Sunnyside up to Bruin Point, where the loop forks.
The first fork takes trail users down Dry Canyon Road, which runs from Bruin Point to the Barrett compressor station in Nine Mile Canyon, a distance of 20 miles.
Along Dry Canyon Road, riders can see a variety of petroglyphs etched into canyon walls before reaching Nine Mile Canyon Road.
The other fork, Cold Springs Road, was opened last year for public access, takes trail users to Nine Mile Canyon by way of Cottonwood Canyon, where trail users can enjoy rock art dating back thousands of years.
The route passes the famous Great Hunt Panel, a burial site and the remains of a Fremont village before joining Nine Mile Canyon Road.
A short section of Nine Mile Canyon road has been opened for ATV use between Dry Canyon and Cottonwood Canyon.
The 1.5-mile stretch passes Rasmussen Cave and the improved interpretation site at Daddy Canyon.
While OHV riders have been traveling this route frequently, OHV use in Nine Mile was not sanctioned prior to the passage of the ordinance last month.
Other sections of Nine Mile Canyon Road remain closed for OHV riders, who may be cited if they are found riding on other sections of the road.
The second section starts at the Carbon County Fairgrounds, and heads out to Porphyry Bench, where trail users will pass right in front of Pinnacle Peak.
From the Pinnacle, the trial heads up Haley Canyon, crossing Wiregrass Bench until hitting Bob Wright Road.
Along the way, the trail passes Corners, First Water and Second Water canyons and eventually makes its way to Consumers Canyon Road.
Trail users can follow Consumers Canyon Road all the way to the Wildcat coal loadout, passing the ghost towns of Consumers, Great Western and Coal City.
From Wildcat, the trail winds its way through Consumers Wash and up to Spring Canyon Road. An ordinance in Helper opens certain routes through the city for ATV use.
This second trail section is more than 40 miles long and is accessible by motorized vehicles at multiple points.
In addressing the western loop, Dave Levanger, Carbon County planning director, said the planning staff is concerned about safety in the area, considering the tragedy which happened in the area in July when flash floods swept through the area.
In addition to taking the lives of two children and injuring other members of the Seal family, flash floods swept away a handful of ATVs.
Levanger suggested that the county construct at least one bridge in the area where the trail crosses a creek.
Commissioners suggested that trail engineers could use a rail car for the deck of the bridge.
A few years ago, the county purchased a handful of flat rail cars, with the intention of turning them into bridges.
Some cars have been used at the county golf course, but others may be available for use as part of the ATV trail system.
Commissioner Bill Krompel asked Levanger if the trail system had been named yet.
The county planning director explained that no name has been chosen.
Levanger suggested that one way of naming the trail system would be to launch a public relations campaign and request name suggestions from the public.
Levanger also pointed out that opening the two trails begins the process of opening the entire trail system.
However, opening existing roads to the multiple activities of trail users is just one step toward the end result.
The opened sections lack signage so, for the time being, trail users should become familiar with the routes before heading out. In the future, signs will point the way for trail users.
Trial users should also be aware of restrictions on the roads and trails the route intersects.
For instance, the trail up Second Water canyon is closed to motorized vehicles. Other crossings may carry similar restrictions, and many lack signage.
Levanger gave an update on the rest of the trail system. At this point, plans have come to a halt in the Scofield area until the county can resolve certain issued with private landowners and residents there.
There are also a handful of other private property concerns still up in the air which will need to be resolved before the county opens the backbone of the trail.
The trail system extends from Scofield, through Helper, north of Price and Wellington, across Clark's Valley and into East Carbon and Sunnyside.
Beyond the rights of way, the trail system will need signs, periodic restrooms, garbage collection and information kiosks.
Further the engineering firm contracted to plan the trail system will be required to help organize a launch event once the trail system is completed. Printed materials, such as brochures, paper maps and other resources for trail use and promotion, will need to be generated as well.