SOUTH FORK — As a town nestled at the base of the San Juan Mountains where a section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) runs over the top of Wolf Creek Pass, South Fork became a CDT Gateway Community six years ago.
Since the town was designated a Gateway Community in 2016, many hikers have come to town for services and support along their journey that usually starts either in Mexico or Canada and anywhere on the CDT in between.
Prior to 2016, the South Fork community always had thousands of Continental Divide hikers passing through and it seemed a natural fit for the town to become a Gateway Community.
In 2016 a group of community members and the Greater South Fork Community Foundation, which is now the South Fork Friends Foundation, came together to make this happen. Through a detailed process, the Town of South Fork was designated as a Gateway Community.
Services available in South Fork include rides to and from the trail head on top of Wolf Creek Pass, bikes that can be used to get around town, the post office receives and sends care packages and correspondence for hikers and some people offer places to stay while the hikers are in town. Even local businesses will sometimes offer special prices on supplies and equipment to hikers coming through the area.
There are two times of the year that hikers typically come through South Fork. The first is around June for those traveling north from Mexico and in September for those traveling south down from Canada though hikers can be seen in and around town throughout most of the summer months. During an average year, South Fork will see roughly 140 hikers throughout the summer which brings in additional commerce and economic support, according to officials.
According to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, there are Gateway Communities in five states and 18 towns. Colorado is home to seven Gateway Communities that offer support to hikers.
“CDT Gateway Communities are welcoming destinations along the Continental Divide Trail for people from around the world looking to experience the CDT. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to spend a long weekend with your family, a place to start your next hiking adventure, or your next can’t-miss stop on a road trip through the Rocky Mountain West, you’ll find it in a CDT Gateway Community,” the CDT Coalition stated.
“Towns and counties designated as official CDT Gateway Communities are those that CDTC recognizes as friendly to trail users and dedicated to the completion and protection of the trail. We partner with Gateway Communities to give visitors a great experience and to continue our work completing, promoting, and protecting the Continental Divide Trail. From the high desert of New Mexico to the snow-covered mountains of Montana and everywhere in between, CDT Gateway Communities span the length of the trail,” the CDT Coalition added.
More Colorado communities are joining the growing list of Gateway Communities, including Creede which has seen a rise in hikers coming to the area over the past two years.
For more information, visit www.continentaldividetrail.org.