A new five-mile single track trail, known as the Toll Trail, has opened just in time for the fall foliage season. The flowy, scenic route was a decade in the making and runs entirely within the privately owned Tolland Ranch property west of Nederland.
Named after the family whose property it bisects, the trail connects the West Magnolia trail system to Deadman’s Gulch in Eldora’s nordic area, just shy of Jenny Creek Road.
A small segment, yet to be built, is planned to finish the link to Jenny Creek, which connects to the Continental Divide just below Rollins Pass. The trail marks Boulder County’s first recreational easement.
“We are thrilled the trail is open and are indebted to the incredible generosity of the Toll family,” said Mary Olsen, Boulder County project lead and landscape architect. Currently, the only access route is through the School Bus Trail, which is a challenging three-mile section.
‘Only had 10 years to get this done’
The Toll family arrived in Colorado in 1875, and Charles Hanson Toll soon became the state’s attorney general. He bought the land, including two mining claims, and the Tolls have been a community-oriented family ever since.
According to the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, the idea for the trail came from Mike Barrow, who was on the board of the BMA around 2005, during the early talks between the Toll family and Boulder County about a conservation easement.
Barrow said he shared his idea with another BMA board member, Jason Vogel, who talked then-Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor into a bike ride around the area. The ride was an effort to advocate for the idea of using the easement to connect West Magnolia to Jenny Creek. At the time, recreationists had already forged numerous unsanctioned trails creating this connection on their own, and BMA thought it wise to establish a legal one.
“Jason Vogel and myself started talking to Will Toor, saying hey, we need the ability to get over the Continental Divide. There’s no way to connect the dots from Nederland to Winter Park,” Barrow said. (Toor, he added, became an advocate.)
Once the recreation easement was added to the conservation easement, which was finalized in 2015, there was a deadline of 10 years to establish the trail. After that, if no trail existed then neither would the easement. As such, significant efforts were put into designing and constructing to ensure the deadline was met, according to Barrow.
“They [the county] only had 10 years to get this done, which is a big deal because it’s remote. It takes me a full hour of technical climbing just to get to the trail,” Barrow said. “But it’s a payoff when you get there. It has some killer views.”
Significant natural resources on the property
The Toll property encompasses 4,700 acres, making it the largest private property in the South Boulder Creek Watershed. It offers fishing access, skiing access, an elk migration corridor, Amtrak passage, a historic schoolhouse and a handful of modest homes. It contains wetlands, grasslands, mountains and washboard gravel roads. Some of the land is also leased to Eldora for part of its nordic system and Jolly Jug ski area expansion.
The new trail is the latest way the general public can benefit from the property. The Toll family has been working to preserve their land for conservation and recreation for some time.
Most notably, in 1994, more than a thousand acres of the family’s land was transferred to the U.S. Forest Service to provide public access to the James Peak Wilderness area.
Due to the significant natural resources on this land, the National Forest Foundation, official partner of the USFS, believed it was critical to keep the property intact.
So instead of selling its 103 potential building parcels to private developers, the Toll family agreed to a conservation easement. This easement allows them to keep ownership of the land while releasing 88 of those parcels, along with their development rights, to the Forest Service.
The deal earned around $7 million for the family. Funds were rounded up from the Federal Forest Legacy Program, Great Outdoors Colorado and Boulder County, which pitched in $1.5 million for enforcement rights to help monitor the area. While the land is technically located within Gilpin County, just beyond the Boulder County border, the limited resources there prompted Boulder County to step in, according to Boulder Mountainbike Alliance Director Wendy Sweet, given its greater resources.
Link from Nederland to Winter Park still on the table
Eventually, the trail is planned to continue off of Toll land and into Forest Service land another half mile to Jenny Creek Road. This would allow users to make it all the way to the Continental Divide and beyond. However that section, also known as “Segment A” is in limbo. Barrow said he believes the Forest Service doesn’t have the bandwidth to push it through, and recreation is not the department’s priority.
Barrow got heated on the fate of Segment A.
“If anyone ever tries to tell you there was never an intention to connect to Jenny Creek trail that’s utter B.S.” said Barrow.
The connection to Jenny Creek is part of an even larger vision.
BMA advocates for what was identified as a single-track trail route from Boulder to Winter Park, known as the Indian Peaks Traverse. The Toll trail moves that vision forward, but without Segment A, it falls short. Another section requires passage through Eldorado Canyon, a proposal that was denied in 2021. But the link from Nederland to Winter Park is still on the table.
According to the Forest Service, District Ranger Kevin McLaughlin determined that further public engagement and planning are needed before proceeding with building a non-motorized connector trail on the forest beyond the Toll conservation easement.
“We must ensure that all interested stakeholders have had an opportunity to engage and that we are thoughtfully planning a trail system that will balance the current and future needs of trail users and wildlife,” he said.
Forest Service spokesperson Reid Armstrong added that Segment A would need to connect to a motorized trail, which makes things tricky.
“Our concern is making sure we don’t exacerbate any user conflicts between motorized use and non-motorized use by connecting a non-motorized trail into a road and motorized trail system,” Armstrong said. “We want to be sure the layout and design of the connector trail helps meet its intended use and we are able to properly manage it.”
If the trail isn’t built to Jenny Creek, Barrow said an unauthorized trail is likely to get established by users given the proximity.
“It would be like if Boulder County built a road for cars and it ended like a quarter mile before the next turn,” said Sweet of the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance.
In a perfect world, Sweet said, there would be summer parking and a trailhead at Eldora Ski Resort so users can access the trail directly. But she pointed out that, among more bureaucratic roadblocks, the terrain and parking expansion work being done there, with heavy machinery toiling around the parking lot throughout summer, makes access there unreasonable for now.
The trail will be closed for winter around mid-October, depending on yearly conditions. The seasonal closure comes at the request of Eldora Ski Resort, which has various concerns that users will trespass onto its nordic trail system.
Some question the relevance of that concern, however, since it would require skiing in from the West Magnolia access point around eight miles to get onto Eldora’s trails, which is not an easy effort. Eldora General Manager Brent Tregaskis didn’t want to comment on the closure, but said the resort didn’t have much to do with the project other than to generally support it.
Nonetheless, Boulder County and USFS will work with Eldora to determine closure dates based on the resort’s operational timelines for the nordic center.