COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Waldo Canyon area has been closed to hikers for five years now after a massive fire.
The fire, which started near the trail, caused a lot of damage in 2012. The Waldo Canyon Fire was the most destructive fire in Colorado history, until the Black Forest Fire, sending more than 18,000 acres up in a blaze.
The community is still healing after the fire, and the environment is too.
The U.S. Forest Service invested about $7.5 million for recovery. They say now that recovery is well established, it’s time to focus on the future of potential recreation, but some experts warn about the lingering dangers.
The Canyon is open with these exceptions:
- The trailhead and parking lot on Hwy 24 is closed
- The Waldo Canyon trail itself remains closed and off limits
- No camping or campfires are allowed
The Forest Service said public accessing the area should be extremely careful and be prepared for cross-country hiking over rough terrain and debris.
Local hiking guru, Bob Falcone, took FOX21’s Carly Moore on a tour of the Waldo Canyon burn scar area.
“[It’s] Not your typical leisurely walk in the park or anything like that,” said Bob Falcone. “Its a very steep and rugged terrain.”
The Forest Service is opening the area for recreation again, but Hiking Bob said people need to be careful because there are still a lot of dangerous aspects of the trail, like unmaintained areas and the vast amount of dead trees.
“See here we’re stopped by a tree that’s down, this would be an easy place for somebody to get lost,” Falcone said. “These dead trees are called snags, there’s not much holding them up they can fall over on you, especially if it’s windy, so you have to be careful of that.”
Forest Service officials said this opening is the beginning of the next chapter in Waldo recovery.
“The healing is that we can now go back in there, and maybe people will get a better appreciation of what fire does, because, a lot this damage is not obvious just zipping by,” said Falcone.
“We are proud of the massive recovery effort the Forest Service, partners, and the community has poured into Waldo and happy that we are finally able to open the area as hunting season gets going,” said Oscar Martinez, District Ranger.
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute is applying for a Colorado Parks and Wildlife trails planning grant with the support of the U.S. Forest Service and multiple partners, the goal of the grant is to start planning another potential trail in the Waldo Canyon Area.