Determining if a road is public or private

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Determining if a road is public or private

Postby ekalina » Wed Jun 10, 2020 6:31 pm

In the spirit of avoiding angry mobs with pitchforks (or worse) while hiking, I'm wondering what resources are available for determining if a road or trail is considered public. The following example illustrates a situation that isn't so clear (perhaps only in my mind):

This is a map from LoJ (with land management layer turned on) showing "Popeye Peak," a high point in Boulder County, CO. Note County Road 82E, which passes to Popeye's north, and road/trail 604, which splits off to the south from 82E and circles around Popeye, reaching some public land to the east of the summit.

It would be nice if I could legally park off 82E and then hike up 604 until I get to the public land (let's ignore, for the sake of this example, that the summit itself is on private land). So how can I tell if road/trail 604 is public or private? Both 82E and 604 pass through private land based on the land management layer, but 82E is public, since it's a county road. How do we know if 604 also is public?

Thanks in advance for any food for thought.
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Re: Determining if a road is public or private

Postby jmbrooks8 » Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:53 pm

Roads can also be closed due to time of year, construction, weather conditions, and tree fall, so who knows.
Your best resource to address your question is to look at the TR(s) which indicate how the peak access has already been 'solved'.
I have recently joined Gaia GPS with a premium membership which offers several road layers which provide public/private info as well as road type (4wd, etc.), and what time of yr open.
Other than that, I will quote my often hiking partner - "you don't know, until you go."
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Re: Determining if a road is public or private

Postby ekalina » Thu Jun 11, 2020 6:55 pm

Thanks jm. I agree that part of the fun is doing the legwork to find out. And the TRs on LoJ are immensely helpful for sure.

After making my post, I did come across a few additional resources that are helpful, at least for this particular area. The first is the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) published by the forest service. The downloadable north-half Boulder Ranger District map shows 82E as public, but doesn't even depict 604. The MVUM webpage states, "Routes not shown on the MVUM are not open to public motor vehicle travel." So I guess from the MVUM I can conclude that I can't drive on 604.

In terms of whether I can hike it, I found the Interactive Visitor Map from the FS. A little clunky, but if you select "hiking" as the activity and zoom into the Allenspark area, 604 isn't on the map. Unlike the MVUM, I can't find anything that says the absence of a trail on the Interactive Visitor Map means it isn't public, so there's still room for interpretation there.

I will have to check out Gaia GPS – sounds like a lot of this info plus more is already compiled there.
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Re: Determining if a road is public or private

Postby JoeGrim » Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:54 am

Hi,

Here is how I try and assess if a road is publicly accessible ahead of time. First, I read any trip reports I can find. If that doesn't give me enough information, I go to Google Maps and use Street View (where you click on the little yellow guy in the lower righthand corner and drop him on a road) to see if I can see a road sign there indicating "No Trespassing", or something like that. It's pretty common for these remote roads not to have any Google Street View, though. My next place to check is Strava's heat map (e.g., https://www.strava.com/heatmap#14.64/-1 ... 47/hot/all) and see if (and how) others make trips into that area. Often (though not always), the way a lot of others take is an acceptable way in. Occasionally though, some people use Strava on their own private land, so a bright yellow heat track isn't always public. Other resources I use include MVUMs, county GIS websites (that show all county-maintained roads), and if all else fails, I try to contact a local land owner and ask for permission to cross their land. In fact, this is what I did to climb Popeye Peak (see my LOJ TR link here: https://www.listsofjohn.com/tr?Id=4300&pkid=4133.)

Joe
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Re: Determining if a road is public or private

Postby ekalina » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:41 pm

Thanks Joe – that's really helpful. I never thought to look at the Strava heat map. There is a surprising amount of activity on Popeye, despite the somewhat tricky access situation.

I really appreciate your TRs – they've helped me on several recent trips.
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Re: Determining if a road is public or private

Postby JoeGrim » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:58 pm

Glad to help!

BTW, I just looked at your profile and see you're a meteorologist like me! I work at NCAR in Boulder. How about you?
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Re: Determining if a road is public or private

Postby ekalina » Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:26 pm

Hey, that's awesome! I work over at NOAA – well, figuratively speaking these days. It's a small world!
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