RMYC and Local Bike Trails
Youth Corps crews contribute to growing network of town's trails
Like Steamboat’s growing network of biking and hking trails? Among other local entities, thank the trail-building crews from Steamboat-based Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
As the Forest Service finishes its final environmental assessments for a new set of trails atop Rabbit Ears Pass, which would likely engage RMYC crews even more, the nonprofit group’s efforts are already being enjoyed by everyone from hikers to mountain bikers throughout Routt County.
“Helping maintain and build our local systems of trails is a huge component of what we do, and it’s only grown since we started,” says RMYC program director Ryan Banks, adding that most of its local trailwork has been done through its Conservation Corps program, as well as some through its Youth Corps programs.
And the City of Steamboat Springs has been behind RMYC’s efforts 100 percent, especially in putting proceeds from its 2A Lodging Tax to use—which is entering the end of a decade-long spending cycle allocating $5.1 million in lodging tax proceeds for 46 trail-related projects (known as the 2A Trail Program). The Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund (TMEF) also generates up to $50,000 annually to pay for maintaining trails on public lands in Routt and Moffat counties, furthering RMYC’s involvement with local trails.
“Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is a huge help to us at Parks and Recreation every season,” says the city’s Open Space and Trails Supervisor Jenny Carey. “The community youth crews help on a variety of maintenance projects throughout town and it’s always great to have youth out working on their local trails. They’re able to go show friends and family the projects that they’ve worked on and take tremendous pride in their work. Over the past 10 years RMYC has been involved in bridge replacement on Spring Creek, helping with the Morning Gloria build, and a wide variety of maintenance projects on Emerald Mountain and throughout town.”
Local trail-building group Routt County Riders is also grateful for the help.
“RMYC crews have been integral to the process of local trail development here in the Yampa Valley over the past several decades,” says RCR Executive Director Laraine Martin. “It's awesome to see youth participating in the genesis of a growing trail system, and learning as they go. Every time I ride up Morning Gloria, I'm reminded of the time I visited an RMYC chainsaw crew up there years ago. They were tasked with removing widowmaker aspen from the trail's upper reaches near the ridgeline, with lots of complex hangups and problems to solve. It wasn’t the easiest project for their first few weeks as certified sawyers, but it sure did break them in a bit.”
Martin adds that it’s also a huge benefit for the community to have a group like RMYC so close, able and willing to help. “Putting Youth Corps crews on local trail projects is a win/win for land managers and the community at large,” she says. “It brings dedicated and energetic labor to projects in need of completion, which are often tasked to land management agencies that are understaffed and incredibly busy. And it gives youth and young adults a chance to experience a career option that keeps them outdoors, active, and healthy.”
RMYC Trail Snapshot
The below trails were all bult and/or maintained by RMYC crews, working in partnership with the City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County Riders.
Blair Witch: 2013
Stairway to Heaven: 2013
Morning Gloria : 2014 (new trail!)
Prayer Flag: 2015 (re-route)
Mile Run/Lower NPR: 2016 (re-route/new trail)
Spring Cree: 2015
Spring Roll: 2016
Flash of Gold: 2016/17
Soda Mountain: 2017/18
Buffalo Billy: 2020/21
Uranium Mine Trail (Fish Creek Falls Recreation Area)
Wyoming Trail (#1101)
RMYC Crews Wrap-up on Mt. Elbert
Hikers climbing Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest 14er at 14,439 feet and the second highest peak in the contiguous U.S., can thank Rocky Mountain Youth Corps for making their stairway to the sky a little easier.
A longtime partner of the nonprofit Colorado 14ers Initiative (CFI), RMYC crews wrapped up this season’s trailwork on the peak in early September, capping off a pinnacle project coveted by highly trained RMYC crews.
“It’s a pretty extreme experience,” says RMYC programs manager Ryan Banks. “The work days are intense and you have to be off the mountain by 2 p.m. when the storms roll in. But people want to work there.”
This summer, RMYC crews worked on the North Elbert trail before turning their attention to the Black Cloud trail, a 5.5-mile, one-way alternative route to the more heavily used North and South trails, with an elevation gain of 4,713 feet.
CFI was formed in 1994 as a partnership of nonprofits, private donors and public agencies. to preserve and protect the natural integrity of Colorado’s fourteeners. Mt. Elbert has long been a recipient of its trailwork attention, with its northeast route the first 14er-specific route it ever worked on. This season, four CFI leaders worked with a nine-person RMYC crew at two sites on the mountain. Near timberline the project utilized timber features to reconstruct 2,500 linear feet of trail, including felling 27 trees, and stripping 125 logs to use as steps and them to the project site. Higher up on the peak, at around 13,500 feet, RMYC crews also built 900 feet of new bypass trail, hauling rocks to construct walls, staircases and other features. The location of the quarry site entailed using a griphoist to haul the stones—some upwards of 500 lbs.—uphill 200 vertical feet and then 300 feet laterally to the project site. In all, the team installed 41 cribbed rock steps and built 1,380 square feet of retaining walls at the upper site. Over the course of an eight-day hitch, or typical work session, a crew would work two days on the lower site and six days on the upper.
RMYC is a longtime partner of ours, and one of our most reliable,” says CFI field programs director Ben Hanus. “They’re an integral part of making our projects happen—particularly, this year up on Elbert on the North and Black Cloud trails. They’re always willing to do what needs to be done to get a project finished.” The new re-routes are expected to be completed this year on the North Elbert trail, he adds, with RMYC crews returning next year for one more season on the Black Cloud trail.
He adds that the work isn’t for the faint of heart. “It’s a really strenuous place to work,” he says, adding that the crews put in 10-hour days and have to hike 3,000 vertical feet each morning from base camp up to 13,500 feet just to begin their “work.” But they’re extremely grateful for the RMYC’s help, and the training they give their crews beforehand.
“The crews we get from RMYC are way better than volunteers,” says Hanus. “They come with training as well as crew leaders and assistant crew leaders. Next to my staff, which has a minimum three years’ experience, RMYC crews are the next best qualified to do this type of work.”
He’s also glad for the experience it gives the kids. “It gives us an opportunity to introduce trailwork to people who otherwise might not get to see it,” Hanus says. “Our partnership with RMYC allows us to help create more future stewards of 14ers.”
And working on Mt. Elbert, the state’s highest peak and one of its most popular to climb, is also considered a crown jewel for RMYC crews to work on. “It has a cult-like vibe,” says RMYC’s Banks. “We’ve had returning crew members request to go up there and become crew leaders. For some reason, people really want to work up there. It’s something about the kind of work we do; it’s an iconic peak and you’re building something on it that will be there for another hundred years.”
RMYC 30th Anniversary Timeline
For 30 years, Steamboat Springs, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain Youth Corps has engaged young people in the outdoors, empowering them to use their strengths and potential to lead healthy, productive lives. As the leader in the Northcentral Rockies in providing diverse opportunities for young people to participate in outdoor-based service and education, its participants build resiliency in themselves, communities and ecosystems through teamwork, service and experiential education. Collaborating with project, program and funding partners, RMYC engages the strength and potential of youth and young adults to make a difference in themselves and their community through meaningful service opportunities, employment skills, and experiential education.
At the group’s helm since its inception has been founder and CEO Gretchen Van De Carr, who is retiring In February 2024 after three decades of selfless service. Want to see what all she and her high-level team has accomplished since the original Roe v. Wade decision, signing of the Paris Peace Accords and Bette Milder won the Grammy? Behold a 30th Anniversary Timeline of RMYC’s accomplishments in the trenches engaging youth in outdoor-based service and education.
June 1993: Gretchen Van De Carr founds Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, using city’s $3,000 Teen Center summer budget for pilot program emulating Northwest Youth Corps; employs first official crew on Diamond Peak in Northwest Colorado.
August 1993: Community Youth Crews (ages 16-18) complete first season of projects on BLM and USFS lands during three two-week, paid sessions, engaging 24 youth.
June 1994: Launches first Urban Youth Crews for ages 14-15 years.
June 1996: Expands capacity to nine crews totaling 78 crew members.
March 1997: Assists in launching Colorado Youth Corps Association.
January 1999: Community Youth Crew program leaves city umbrella to become a stand-alone nonprofit organization (Urban Youth Crew remains with the city). First RMYC Board of Directors established.
June 1999: Launches first Colorado Backcountry Corps crew for ages 18-25 years.
October 1999: RMYC earns 501-C3 nonprofit status.
July 2000: Receives first AmeriCorps grant; creates Yampa Valley Science School to serve local sixth graders and high school students—five-day, three-night pilot program at Columbine Cabins; launches School-Based Mentoring program.
June 2001: Creates first Chainsaw Crews.
September 2002: Celebrates 10th anniversary at Carpenter Ranch. Yampa Valley Science School moves to Perry-Mansfield.
July 2004: Launches Ute Conservation Corps.
January 2006: School-Based Mentoring program moves to Partners in Routt County.
February 2008: Establishes endowment fund at Yampa Valley Community Foundation with $20K and a goal of $3.75M by 2025.
March 2008: Develops first Strategic Plan 2008-2013.
May 2008: Launches Energy Crews to assess efficiency of low-income home weatherization efforts.
August 2008: Hosts first all-crew Rendezvous on Rabbit Ears Pass.
March 2010: Creates Service Learning Crew (SLC), providing education/experience in citizenship, volunteerism, community service, and self-development to youth ages 11-13 in two-week sessions.
June 2010: Launches first Historic Preservation Crews, rebuilding More Barn’s Yock Homestead.
August 2010: Purchases 991 Captain Jack Drive; begins renovation for new headquarters.
September 2010: All Crew Rendezvous moves to Fetcher Barn at Steamboat Lake.
February 2011: Moves into new headquarters at 991 Captain Jack Drive.
September 2013: Celebrates 20th anniversary.
January 2015: RMYC takes over operations of the Urban Youth Crew from the City of Steamboat Springs.
June 2015: Launches Natural Resource Internship Program (NRI), engages 16- to 30-year-olds in work experiences within natural resources management agencies/nonprofits to advance careers in natural resources.
November 2015: Creates 2015-2020 Strategic Plan.
June 2016: Expands Youth Crews to four more counties: Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, and Lake.
June 2017: Expands Youth Crews to two more counties: Summit, Rio Blanco.
August 2017: Places 4,000th member on crew.
June 2018: Expands Youth Crews to include Moffat County.
September 2018: Celebrates 25th anniversary at Captain Jack headquarters (we love a party!).
June 2019: Expands Youth Crews to two more counties: Jackson and Grand. Now serving all 10 Northwest Colorado rural counties!
August 2021: Serves record-breaking 1,006 participants in one year; creates 2021-2025 Strategic Plan.
September 2023: Celebrates 30th anniversary with milestone of engaging over 13,000 participants; grows to 15 staff members and $7 million operating budget.
February 2024: Founder and CEO Gretchen Van De Carr retires, and thus begins the next 30 years of impact!