By Scott Owen | U.S. Forest Service
The San Juan National Forest is assessing damage caused by winter weather on seasonally closed roads. Some usually passable roads are covered in deep snow and will not be passable for several weeks. Many forest roads are covered by more snow than in recent years, leading to a delay in reopening the roads.
The Pagosa Ranger District recreation staff have been assessing roads this spring and opening as conditions allow. The San Juan National Forest will continue to monitor road conditions; upper elevation and backcountry roads will be opened June 1 or later as conditions permit.
Roads are closed seasonally to wheeled motorized vehicles to protect critical wildlife habitat and/or to prevent damage to road surfaces. Travel on muddy roads or trails creates damage that lasts throughout the year. The road or trail is not ready for travel if you leave a tire print or a boot print in the mud. Delay your trip on the road or trail until the mud dries. Even though a road may appear dry at its beginning does not mean it’s ready to be traveled on further up in elevation or distance.
Closures offer wildlife herds forage, shelter and protection from disturbance over the winter and into early spring, when animals are most vulnerable. Seasonal closures also prevent damage to road surfaces during freezing and thawing periods, even if snow levels are not very deep. Spring conditions are variable and visitors should be prepared to encounter system roads that are impassable due to snow drifts, waterlogged roadbeds, down trees or other debris. Visitors are asked to stay off wet roads and respect road closures, which will decrease long-term and costly damages to the roadway.
When visiting the national forest, please follow Leave No Trace principals and, to get the most out of your experience, visit the Know Before You Go website. The Recreate Responsibly Coalition also offers guidelines and tips for getting outside and staying healthy while practicing responsible outdoor recreation and wildfire prevention activities.
For specific road information, visit the road conditions Web page or contact the Pagosa Ranger District at (970) 264-2268.
For information on the San Juan National Forest, call (970) 247-4874.