SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — The pilot program to help ease the traffic headache around Quandary Peak in the summer has been adopted by Summit County and will remain in place through the 2022 season.
This second iteration of the pilot program will require all hikers hoping to access Quandary Peak and McCullough Gulch to either make a parking reservation or ride a free shuttle from Breckenridge. The program is set to start on June 1. Parking is free up until that date and does not require a reservation, however hikers should be aware of possible wintry conditions.
The pilot program was first introduced in late July 2021 to address safety issues related to limited parking and access at the trailhead. In past years, Quandary Peak's visitation numbers have grown, leading to a parking lot that's often full early. Drivers who arrived at a full parking lot resorted to illegally parking on county roads and in neighbors' lawns, Summit County officials said. This parking challenge endangered hikers on the roads and created challenges for emergency vehicles trying to access the trailhead.
Officials started the program by increasing signage around the area to deter illegal parking, striping the parking lot to increase the number of cars that can fit, formalizing a helipad landing zone and shuttle turnaround to ensure safe rescues and passenger loading, and creating a monitoring program.
During the 2021 pilot program, 21,283 people rode on the shuttle to and/or from Quandary Peak or McCullough Gulch, according to the 2021 Quandary Peak & McCullough Gulch Pilot Program Report. Based on two kiosks with questionnaires about the shuttle service, respondents' overall satisfaction rating was 7.57. Visitors made 3,364 parking reservations in the 2021 program, according to the report. Those who made a parking reservation had lower satisfaction rates, "presumably due to cost among other areas of possible improvement," the report reads.
The public provided the following comments, which can be found in full on page 34 of the report:
- "It said it was full online but the parking lot was almost empty"
- "Everything we read online said Quandary Peak was a 4-5 hour hike, and we arrived at 5AM assuming we had an hour or two cushion. However, we got lost on the mountain and instead of focusing on the hike, we were just stressing about the parking. If someone goes through the trouble to get a parking permit, but is not back by the designated time, it’s because something went wrong and things didn’t go as planned. It adds insult or injury when you have a huge ticket waiting for you at the end of the day"
- "I would recommend clearly recommending on the site that out-of-town visitors get the full day pass"
- "We really enjoyed knowing that we would have a spot, didn't have to get there earlier than we wanted to start and didn't have to worry about having a backup plan"
- "I'd be willing to pay a reasonable fee to park and I'm more than willing to continue [funding] the preservation of wilderness areas, but this [is] for the rich that excludes the less fortunate and already oppressed"
In its conclusion, the report said the pilot program successfully addressed the public health and safety issues, with general satisfaction from the public. There was a decrease in parking along county roads and State Highway 9, fewer tickets were issued over time, and a robust volunteer program. The report said the shuttle program was an "overall success" with some ideas for improvement.
The following were some of the recommendations to improve the system in the long-term:
- Increase signage and clarity
- Increasing number of shuttles to reduce wait times
- Continue road maintenance
- Create shade structure and benches for those waiting for the shuttle
- Create an improved way to access McCullough Gulch
- Adding a shuttle that leaves earlier than 4 a.m.
- Make shuttles available for more visitors
- Create reservation payment kiosk for those who arrive without having a reservation
- Provide a cancellation incentive for parking reservations to minimize the number of unused spots
- Adjust rates depending on time of use (like discounted reservations mid-week)
To make a 2022 parking reservation once they're available, sign up for notifications about this program here, which will include links on how to make the reservation.
While a reservation is required for a Quandary Peak parking lot spot, shuttle pick-ups and drop-offs are also available. The shuttle also goes to the McCullough Gulch Trail Access Point, where parking is not allowed. There is free parking and no shuttle at the Lower McCullough Gulch Trailhead, north of the Quandary Peak lot.
In 2021, the shuttle, which was free and operated by Summit Express from Breckenridge, operated on a first-come, first-served basis from the Breckenridge Airport Road Lot. It ran seven days a week from 5 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. every 30 minutes. It's not clear if this will change in the 2022 season.