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Large section of Boulder County park will stay closed through spring due to 2020 wildfire damage

Wapiti Trail at Heil Valley Ranch
Posted at 5:51 AM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 08:05:18-04

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — The southern half of Heil Valley Ranch in Boulder County, which was heavily impacted by the CalWood Fire in 2020, will stay closed through next spring.

The Boulder County Board of County Commissioners recently approved the recommendation from the Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff, who said this is the best option "due to continued instability in the upper watershed, the complexities of recovery projects, and the dynamic construction timeline." There is no safe way to allow guests to return during construction, park staff said.

Heil Valley Ranch Feb 21 2021.jpg
A section of Heil Valley Ranch that is open to the public, but burned in the CalWood Fire. Taken Feb. 21, 2021.

In April, staff said it expected to open the park after this summer.

About eight miles of trail are closed, which includes all park amenities at the Corral trailhead, the main trailhead, the southern section of the Wapiti Trail, the Lichen Loop, the Overland Trail, the Schoolhouse Loop, and the Grindstone Quarry Trail.

About 11 miles of trail are open to the public via the Picture Rock trailhead near Lyons. This includes the Picture Rock Trail, the Wild Turkey Loop, the Ponderosa Loop, and the northern 1.2 miles of the of the Wapiti Trail.


The CalWood Fire burn scar in and near the park may see significant and dangerous flooding and debris flows into the late summer and fall, which could affect the park's amenities, plus nearby roads and downstream communities, staff said. Each storm brings the possibility of visitor evacuations, which would strain first responder resources.

Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff said once conditions are safer, it will escort volunteers and community groups into the burn scar area to help with recovery projects.

Those projects include:

  • Design, permitting, and construction of debris flow mitigation structures along Geer Canyon (expected completion March 2022).
  • Design, construction, and installation of three pedestrian bridges (expected completion February 2022).
  • Road culvert replacement (expected completion winter 2022).
  • Fence replacement throughout burn area (expected completion fall 2022).
  • Sign replacement (expected completion April 2022).
  • Replacement of trailhead and parking lot amenities such as parking stops, parking delineators, and gates (expected completion spring 2022).

Want to volunteer? Here are some opportunities. To stay up to date on Heil Valley Ranch's recovery, visit the park website here. The Picture Rock Trailhead, which has 25 parking spaces, is often full when the weather is favorable, so click here to explore other Boulder County parks.

The Calwood Fire began burning on Oct. 17, 2020 and at one point, had burned 5,000 acres in about five hours. It grew to 10,113 acres and reached 100% containment by Nov. 16 after destroying 26 structures. The Boulder County Sheriff's Office completed their investigation into the fire but could not determine the cause.