Uncompahgre Chapter – Fall 2012

October 17, 2012
Fall is upon us, so some great riding is certainly on the calendar.  With the recent rains, Buzzard Gulch near Montrose has been sweet.  More and more bike tracks are appearing there, and encounters with other trail users are increasing.  Please be courteous to all trail users.  Still no word from the BLM on construction of new Buzzard Gulch trails, but we’ve noticed ribbons placed on trees, marking new trail corridors.  Please refrain from following the ribbons – no brush has been cleared, and the cactus is certainly a deterrent.
We are now talking with the City of Montrose about building trails in the 110 acre Cerro Summit property.  The Parks Advisory Board seems very interested in the project, and will make a visit to the site later this fall to get a closer view of the area’s potential.
We have 3 new sponsors for our tool trailer.  Montrose Daily Quick read more or view full article Press, Tread and Major Mortgage – Lynn Whipple have added their names to our trailer.  New text has been added to tell folks who we are and what we do.  Thanks to the new sponsors for their support. 
Don’t forget that one of the best canyon country rides is in our back door.  The Sidewinder Trail is in the Gunnison Gorge NCA -  22 miles of non-stop cranking.  It’s amazing how many riders from the area haven’t tried the trail.  Specifics about the trail can be found in the 2012 Montrose Cycling Guide available from the Montrose bike shops.
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Posted by Bill Harris
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Colorful Trails on Grand Mesa

October 17, 2012
This past weekend I camped at Jumbo Campground on the north side of Grand Mesa and rode my mountain bike on two wonderful trails that are open to foot, horse and bike travel.  These were the West Bench trail above Powderhorn on the northern rim of the mesa and the Mesa Top trail on the southern rim near County Line.  The colors were spectacular, with every hue from green, yellow, orange, and red of the aspens to deep green of the conifers around the mesa top.  The lower flanks of the mesa contain oakbrush, which were awash with a carpet of warm tones like a skirt with many colors and textures.  The scenery was breathtaking and the trails were great fun.  We saw a handful of hikers and bikers on both trails and almost everyone commented on the beauty around us.  If you want to enjoy some beautiful, quiet trails Quick read more or view full article by foot, bicycle or hoof, I highly recommend these two trails soon while the colors are amazing and the snow hasn’t come in full force yet.
The West Bench Trail, accessed from the Jumbo Lake parking lot (by Mesa Lakes Lodge), starts at an elevation of about 9,800 feet, crosses the earthen dam of Sunset Lake, and stays at about this elevation as it rolls along gently to the west along the northern rim of Grand Mesa.  The trailhead is roughly 60 miles or 1.5 hours driving from Montrose.  This trail, also known as Forest Service Trail #501, contains beautiful flowy singletrack interspersed with some technical basalt rock gardens.  At 3.2 miles is the top of the East Lift of the Powderhorn ski area, at 5.6 miles is the West Lift, and the turnaround at an overlooks at around 10 miles (see for more details).  There are no big climbs or descents and it travels through aspen and spruce/fir forests with occasional open grassy meadows.  The photograph is of me riding through one of these meadows with a stunning stand of aspens in the background. 
The West Bench trail has been around for a long time so it is well-established, signed and the soil is packed.  In addition, there are metal trail markers on trees and tall blue posts in the open areas to aid in winter route finding.  I have cross country skied this in the winter and I would consider it fairly challenging for skiing due to the rolling nature of the terrain.  It is easy hiking and intermediate mountain biking due to the rock gardens.  We ran into a couple of beginner mountain bikers and they loved the packed soil singletrack, which is what the majority of the trail is like, and just walked the short, technical rocky sections.  I would think it would be intermediate for horses, too, due to the rocks.
The Mesa Top trail (aka Trail #714), located on the south rim of Grand Mesa, starts at the Mesa Top trailhead on the west side of Highway 65, just north of County Line.  This trail is about 15 miles closer to Montrose and almost 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the West Bench Trail.  It ranges from about 10,400 to 10,800 feet without any big climbs or descents.  The huge parking lot at the trailhead contains two sets of permanent vault toilets and this trailhead sees a lot of winter sports enthusiasts.  Snowmobilers frequent this area and the Grand Mesa Sled dog races are held here at the end of January each year.  I raced one and two dog skijoring (that is, skate skiing with dogs pulling you) here this past year and I must admit, it looks totally different when not white and covered in 2 to 5 feet of snow. 
The Mesa Top trail is new, thanks to the hard work of volunteers with COPMOBA (Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association), horsemen and women, and hikers.  Due to its young age, it is still a bit rough, but it is well marked and a sweet, fun trail.  Other hikers and bikers on the trail shared the same sentiment.  The trail snakes through groves of aspen, spruce and fir trees and open grassy meadows for the first mile and then it reaches the southern edge of Grand Mesa where it continues southwest along the rim for another roughly 4 miles until it reaches the Indian Point (FS Trail #715) and Flowing Park trails (FS Trail #715.1A).  Several spur trails connect with Flowing Park Road to create loop options.  The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest website has a nice map of this trail system.  This trail offers similar conditions for horse, bike or foot travel as the West Bench trail.  The view to the south towards the North Fork and Uncompahgre Valleys is spectacular and below the basalt capped mesa rim are the Granby and other reservoirs. 
So grab your bike shoes, hiking boots or cowboy boots and head up to Grand Mesa for a great trail experience.  You won’t be disappointed by the colors, terrain, trail quality or views!

Laurie Brandt is a former professional mountain bike racer and three-time Colorado State Mountain Bike Champion.  She is now a professional geologist for Buckhorn Geotech and mother of two young girls.  Her email is
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Posted by Laurie Brandt
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