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Field testing the new Colorado Trails Explorer (COTREX)

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife unveiled Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) to much fanfare earlier this summer, a project aimed at providing outdoor recreation trail data throughout the state. COTREX allows users to zoom in on a map to find hiking, cycling, horseback or motorcycle/ATV trails anywhere in Colorado.

Washington and Idaho are the only other states that have undertaken a similar effort, according to Lauren Truitt, public information officer and website manager for CPW. Truitt says COTREX is most similar to Idaho's offering, though, Washington's is not quite as comprehensive.

COTREX relies on information provided by Federal, state, local, and in some cases, private land managers to assemble the data that goes into the interactive website, optimized for both desktop and mobile devices.

Using COTREX is pretty easy. Users can zoom into any part of the state to see trails in the area, each highlighted in different colors depending on the use —  green for non-motorized trails, orange for multi-use trails, red for motorized trails and blue for on-street bike routes. Once a trail is selected, a window with basic information about the trail shows up, expandable with another click to show more information about the trail, including the name of the trail, land manager information, allowed uses, openings and closures, and more.

Though the information provided is useful, and the program accomplishes its goal to be a one-stop-shop for trail data, COTREX has some limitations. You need some kind of connection to the Internet for the site to work, which can be a problem when using it with a mobile device. There is a work-around, but it's a bit clunky and requires a few more steps and planning ahead. Also, some of the COTREX information is incomplete or incorrect. For example, in the Colorado Springs area, popular trails like the Palmer/Red Rocks loop trail in Section 16 aren't shown, and the Mt. Cutler trail in North Cheyenne Cañon Park is shown as being a multi-use trail — although it's open to foot traffic only.

To be fair, these errors aren't those of CPW, which only passes on information provided by outside sources. (Users can submit corrections to CPW via the website) It's always good practice to check on up-to-date trail information before heading out anyways, as conditions, routes, closures, etc can change.

CPW is working to provide more accurate information and improve usability of COTREX. Truitt says a dedicated mobile app with the ability to preload data for offline use is a "high priority", as is keeping a dialog with local users to make this a "premier digital tool."

Regardless of the few shortcomings of the COTREX site, this one-stop source for information of trails works rather well and is worth taking for a test drive.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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