Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Geology

Committee Chair

Carl A. Reese

Committee Chair Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 2

David M. Cochran

Committee Member 2 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 3

Grant L. Harley

Committee Member 3 Department

Geography and Geology


The popularity of climbing Colorado’s 14,000 ft. peaks, or “Fourteeners”, has risen dramatically in recent years, raising important sustainability and management questions. Moreover, groups managing the peaks operate with major capital constraints so their efforts need to be informed, prioritized, and efficient. This paper gauges the dynamics of trail usage, explanatory variables, and recreational impacts across all 58 Fourteeners, and details evaluation adjustments that minimize error and produce results in-step with the resource management framework. Relative to a baseline study completed in 2005, substantial changes occurred in trail usage and impact dynamics. The greatest changes were concentrated on peaks previously least impacted, and in the San Juan Range, which is furthest from the largest population center in the state. After improving upon the methodologies of the baseline study, several new variables that explain trail usage were uncovered, and a new combination of impact features were used to determine that the most heavily impacted peaks in the state are concentrated in the Tenmile/Mosquito Range. Findings provide insight into how to prioritize reconstruction efforts, build a system for monitoring trail usage and impacts, and evaluate the efficacy with which both are addressed by management.