The Steamboat Stinger: A Punishing Ride Through YVLT Conservation on Emerald Mountain

Emerald Mountain – much of which is under conservation easement with YVLT – provides a massive community venue for hosting a wide range of summer events and activities in Steamboat Springs.


A stone’s throw from downtown Steamboat Springs, Emerald Mountain is the crown jewel of the local community and the launching pad for countless summertime happenings in Northwest Colorado (and year-round, for that matter!).  Returning this August 13th and 14th, the annual Steamboat Stinger is among the most celebrated and also perhaps the most challenging of these events – a 50-mile mountain bike race that has quickly gained notoriety among endurance athletes in the Intermountain West for its extreme difficulty.

The grueling but visually stunning course begins at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs and showcases some of Colorado’s premier recreational trails, weaving through dense aspen groves, rolling open meadows, sagebrush stands, rock gardens, and conifer-speckled hillsides on Emerald Mountain.  Riders may not realize it while pedaling on local favorites like Blair Witch, MGM, and the Orton Trail (to name a few), but many of the amazing singletrack trails featured in the Steamboat Stinger are on YVLT-conserved lands open to the public!

Race director Sara Tlamka recently praised the Emerald Mountain trail system in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.  “I think the success of this race is a tribute to Emerald Mountain and what a fun venue it is, not only for mountain biking, but for running as well,” Tlamka said.

Hosted by Honey Stinger, a locally-based sports nutrition company, the Steamboat Stinger has quickly elevated itself to “legendary” status among endurance mountain bike races in the Intermountain West.  The annual event in August is open to 500 mountain bikers and 400 runners, with most slots filled just hours after registration begins.

For those brave, masochistic souls who dare, participants have the option to compete in both the 50-mile bike race and a marathon trail run – which take place on back-to-back days – to vie for the prestigious crowns of “King Sting” and “Queen Bee.”  Roughly 90 percent of the Steamboat Stinger takes place on world-class singletrack trails, consisting of two 25-mile laps around Emerald Mountain and featuring more than 6,600 feet of vertical climb.

Fortunately, for mere mortals like the rest of us, there are many shorter loops on Emerald Mountain that allow us to experience this amazing public resource without risking a heart attack!

Land conservation quietly contributes to virtually all of the signature Northwest Colorado events in many tangible and intangible ways. 

YVLT worked with community leaders to expand access to 4,000 acres on the backside of Emerald Mountain (BLM-owned) as well as nearly 600 acres owned by the City of Steamboat Springs and conserved by YVLT – the dedicated public access that makes events like this weekend’s Steamboat Stinger possible!  Read more about YVLT conservation on Emerald Mountain here.

Emerald Mountain and its miles of winding multi-use trails showcase just a fraction of the innumerable and lasting benefits that land conservation can bring to this awe-inspiring corner of Colorado.

On a larger scale, Northwest Colorado is a renowned “destination venue” because of its stunning landscapes, abundance of wildlife and vibrant outdoor culture, which are often featured prominently in marketing tools for community events.  Would these beloved events still thrive if our region’s natural and scenic qualities were degraded or lost over time?

Donate today and we will continue to preserve the very best of our spectacular region – for today and for the future.

Tour de Steamboat Showcases NWCO’s Spectacular Conserved Landscapes

Steamboat Springs is well-known for hosting a wide variety of events and festivals that attract thousands of people to our vibrant mountain town.  Many of these unique events showcase Steamboat’s rugged mountain scenery, its wealth of natural areas and abundance of wildlife – qualities which are undoubtedly a huge draw for visitors and locals alike.  Our organization may not be front-and-center at these events, but YVLT is quietly working in the background to preserve the very best of Northwest Colorado; safeguarding these captivating landscapes and their important ecological qualities.

Among the most popular summer gatherings here is the Tour de Steamboat, a road biking event featuring various signature loops throughout Routt County and its stunning locales.  Returning for its 12th year this July, the Tour de Steamboat is touted as a scenic, non-competitive highway ride which unites roughly a thousand passionate cyclists every summer.  According to the Tour de Steamboat website, participants “are encouraged to ride at their own pace and enjoy the majestic scenery in our part of the world!”  The annual gathering is thus both a celebration of road cycling and a chance to savor the awe-inspiring open landscapes of this region.

Not coincidentally, the featured routes (distances of 26, 46, 66, and 126 miles) pass through areas where YVLT has focused its strategic conservation work in an effort to preserve those incredible landscapes and natural areas.  For instance, the 26-mile “Sidney Peak” loop finishes at Sidney Peak Ranch, a 1,500-acre property under conservation easement with YVLT. 

SMR brochure photo fallStorm Mountain Ranch provides a beautiful backdrop as bikers ride along Highway 40.

The 66-mile “Yampa Loop” brings riders along County Road 14 past the Stagecoach area, a conservation corridor where YVLT has permanently preserved several channel miles of the Yampa River and many scenic upland areas which are visible from the road (below).

Iron Springs Ranch on CR-14: Part of YVLT’s “conservation corridor” near Stagecoach and featured on two TDS loops

Cyclists from near and far flock to Steamboat Springs to participate in this increasingly popular ride; one of the countless events held here that benefits from land conservation.  One website describes the ride as winding “through some of Northwest Colorado’s most spectacular areas” (Kansas Cyclist).  Another promotes the Tour de Steamboat as “riding all over the gorgeous landscapes of Northern Colorado . . . When you take part in this event, you will have the chance to witness the beauty of some of the most popular places in Colorado” (Rocky Peak Productions).

It is evident that riders enjoy the Tour de Steamboat not just because of its fun atmosphere, but also because it takes place in such a spectacular mountain setting.  Without land conservation in Northwest Colorado, these beloved landscapes and scenic vistas would be eroded over time.  With your ongoing support, YVLT will continue to preserve large, connected natural areas and open landscapes across Northwest Colorado – safeguarding our most treasured natural resources and scenery, as well as the health and vitality of annual events like Tour de Steamboat.

Connecting the Community to Conservation: Emerald Mountain Trail System

Land Conservation and Public Access Converge to Establish World-Class Singletrack Trail Network on Emerald Mountain

Her beaming smile says it all: it doesn’t get much better than this!


Despite lingering snow showers, the spring melt is in full swing in the Yampa Valley.  Now that winter operations have ceased at Steamboat Ski Resort, mountain bike enthusiasts are itching to get their tires back in the dirt at Emerald Mountain – a beloved community resource under conservation easement held by YVLT!

While Steamboat Springs is dubbed “Ski Town USA” and renowned for its ultra-light powder snow, the outdoor-centric community has recently cultivated a new moniker: “Bike Town USA.”  Steamboat features some of the premier mountain biking in Colorado, thanks in part to the extensive trial network at Emerald Mountain and Howelsen Hill.  Known by many as the town’s “crown jewel,” the 30+ world-class singletrack trails at Emerald Mountain are just a few pedal strokes away from downtown, weaving through thick aspen groves and lush wildflower meadows with sweeping views of the Yampa River Valley.  Few communities are fortunate enough to have such an accessible trail system that is both open to the public and free of charge.  This is why many people – this author included – moved to Steamboat Springs for the exceptional skiing but ultimately grew to favor its spectacular summers.


Trail map courtesy of City of Steamboat Springs


YVLT played an instrumental role along with other community leaders in expanding public access at Emerald Mountain, culminating in 2011 when the City of Steamboat Springs (with financial support from Great Outdoors Colorado) purchased 586 acres from a private landowner and opened it for public recreation.  The land was already under conservation easement with YVLT, which brought down the acquisition price for COSS and helped make it an affordable venture for the City amid the nationwide recession.  [Read more about the deal here.]  This purchase complemented the nearly 4,000 acres of Emerald Mountain under BLM ownership and also open to the public!

The partnership between COSS and YVLT has opened the door to exciting opportunities at Emerald Mountain Park, a conservation project striking a delicate balance between ecological protection and public recreation.  At the time of the land purchase, there were only about nine miles of established trails on Emerald Mountain / Howelsen Hill; now there are over 24 on both the front and backside of the mountain (owned by the Bureau of Land Management), thanks to the hard work of Marc and Gretchen Sehler, Routt County Riders and other trail builders in the community.  The smooth, flowy singletrack trails that have been refined over time are a testament to the hard work that was done both on the ground and conceptually in the office.  Many argue that this is the “greatest city-owned park in the world,” and the number of user visits bring merit to that claim.  It is estimated that over 2,000 people enjoy the Emerald Mountain trail system every year.


mountain bikers


The heavily-used site is carefully managed to preserve its conservation values and safeguard an important forest ecosystem, which provides habitat for a number of plants and animals, including elk winter range and calving grounds.  Conservation projects and natural areas such as this are among the reasons why Steamboat Springs has such an abundance of wildlife, despite its semi-urban setting.  The overwhelming success of this project demonstrates that land conservation and outdoor recreation are not incompatible goals.  With thoughtful stewardship and ecosystem awareness, these aims can go hand-in-hand.

Make sure you are among the thousands who enjoy this amazing resource in 2016!  Pump up your tires, inspect the derailleur, tighten the bolts and screws, and lubricate the chain – mountain bike season is right around the corner.  Always remember to respect the trails and other users, and please stay off the trails when they are wet.  Many volunteers and members of the community work hard to keep these trails in great shape!

YVLT looks forward to bringing more public access opportunities to Northwest Colorado in the near future.  These important projects wouldn’t be possible without your support!

Donate today and we will continue to connect our community to land conservation.

Emerald Mountain
Miles of winding, berm-laden singletrack await on Emerald Mountain. It’s difficult to keep eyes glued to the trail with such beautiful scenery!

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.  Continue reading “Emerald Mountain North: 586-Acre Expansion of Howelsen Hill Open Space and Recreation Area”

South Howelsen Hill Recreation Area and Open Space Acquisition

Howelsen Hill Recreation Area

In December 2008, the City of Steamboat Springs acquired 35 acres straddling the Yampa River on the south side of Emerald Mountain, near Steamboat Springs.  Yampa Valley Land Trust, Routt County, the City of Steamboat Springs and Great Outdoors Colorado combined efforts to preserve this open-space for public recreation, including biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing and fishing from both sides of the Yampa River. Continue reading “South Howelsen Hill Recreation Area and Open Space Acquisition”