Emerald Mountain North: 586-Acre Expansion of Howelsen Hill Open Space and Recreation Area

mountain bikers

Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain, the extraordinary gems creating the backdrop to the City of Steamboat Springs, are much loved by all of those that live, work, visit and play in the beautiful Yampa River Valley.  In an area where outdoor recreation is king and the protection of open land resources reigns as the top community priority, Howelsen and Emerald (aka Quarry Mountain) have provided the community a focal point of diverse recreational activities for over a century. 


The 586 acres had been permissively used by the public – as allowed through the generosity of generations of previous owners.  The community’s ability to seize the opportunity to purchase the 586 acres when it existed in 2011 avoided privatization of the property and its potential closure to public recreational uses.  Today, mountain biking, snow biking, hiking, running, equestrian, wildlife watching, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, dog walking – a diversity low impact recreational activities are enjoyed by the full spectrum that makes up the community – young and old, from all walks of life, residents and visitors alike.

Emerald Mountain

The discussions were initiated in 2010 and after much due diligence, the City closed on the 586 acres in 2011.  The parcel was a portion of a 712-acre property placed in a conservation easement in 1997 and held by Yampa Valley Land Trust.  A tremendous benefit of the 1997 easement is that with the restrictions in place it afforded the City the opportunity to purchase the property from the private owner, Lyman Orton.  Without the easement in place the property would have been cost prohibitive, especially at a time when City resources were extremely tight.  With the potential for privatization looming, the City’s acquisition of this parcel was critical.  The community is extremely grateful to Great Outdoors Colorado and the City of Steamboat Springs along with the donors and supporters of Yampa Valley Land Trust for their funding support that enabled this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to take place.  The property remains in conservation easement with YVLT.


A future goal for the property was recently touted by a local citizen as “the greatest city-owned park in the world.”  The City of Steamboat Springs is finalizing a master plan for the Emerald Mountain – to further define the level of uses and activities that will take place on the property, all of which need to be consistent with YVLT’s conservation easement on the property.



“We are grateful and indebted to all of YVLT’s donors – all of whom should be proud in the role they played in bringing this transaction and the 586 acres of public open space and trails that it represents to our community.  An unexpected, 11th hour change in the transaction nearly thwarted the deal.  It is only out of the generosity of YVLT’s financial donors along with a financial consideration from the City of Steamboat Springs that this project stayed on track and closed,” remarked Susan Dorsey, Executive Director of Yampa Valley Land Trust.