Hike Tabeguache Trail, but be mindful of muddy terrain

Taking a hike down the Tabeguache Trail allows hikers to get outdoors early in the season because the name “Tabeguache” is a Ute word for “place where the snow melts first.”



QUICKREAD

Take a trek down Tabeguache Trail

Drive time and distance: 22 minutes, 8.6 miles

Length: 4.5 miles round-trip

Hiking Time: 1.5 hours-plus

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate



Tabeguache means “place where the snow melts first,” in the native tongue of inhabitants to the region now known as Western Colorado. They called themselves “Nunt’z.” We called them “Utes.” These nomadic people inhabited this area centuries before Europeans made their way West.

Three of us wandered in search of that “place where the snow melts first” on a sunny day last week. Perhaps selfishly, we were not really thinking about the Utes. However, we were mindful of the fact that the Bureau of Land Management asks outdoor enthusiasts to tread lightly on our easily damaged trails this spring.

They’re slippery when wet, and erode quickly. So, until they dry out, the BLM says: “Please help protect these trails by avoiding them when they are muddy.”

In pursuit of fresh air and open space close to town, I’m guilty of treading across a muddy trail on Pollock Bench last month, So, for penance this Lent, I’ll use a few inches of this column as my community service to promote the cause of protecting and enhancing our public lands.

Public land managers need our help to build new trails, maintain current trails and facilities and patrol and monitor our favorite areas. You can help for a day, a weekend, or all the time.

For information about volunteer opportunities with the BLM or other public land management agencies in Colorado, go to voutdoors.org. Or, contact local BLM Park Ranger Chris Pipkin through the BLM’s Grand Junction Field office on H Road near the airport (970-244-3024; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

Chris patrols a huge expanse that includes the Bangs Canyon Special Management Area, southeast of the Colorado National Monument. To reach this area, go to the same parking/staging area that you’d travel to in order to reach the Mica Mine and Rough Canyon trails. Drive west on Grand Avenue past First Street and head toward the Redlands where Grand Avenue turns into Broadway.

Cross the Colorado River and turn left on Monument Road. Take another left on D Road just past the Redlands Vet Clinic and just before the Redlands Canal. You’ll go about .2 miles before D Road ends with a right turn on Rosevale Road.

Stay on Rosevale for 1.2 miles until you get to Little Park Road. Turn right on Little Park and drive another 6.2 miles to the Bangs Canyon Staging Area (about three miles past the Little Park Staging Area). Turn left into the staging area where you’ll find a large parking area and restroom facility.

The Mica Mine trail leads to the mine for a short hike, or take a longer hike through Rough Canyon, which lies in the heart of the Bangs Canyon Special Management Area.

What’s so special? It’s home to some of the most unique plants and animals on earth like the Spineless Hedgehog cactus and rare Canyon Tree Frog. It’s also a geological wonderland.

Last week, we took the high road and instead of hiking into Rough Canyon or the Mica Mine, we hiked along a portion of the Grand Valley section of the Tabeguache Trail, a 142-mile mountain bike trail that runs from here to Montrose.

Stretching from Shavano Valley, eight miles west of Montrose, and weaving through the canyons, mesas and highlands of the Uncompahgre Plateau before ending in No Thoroughfare Canyon on Monument Road in Grand Junction, this trail runs through both private and public property.

It is difficult, but not impossible, for a high-clearance 4WD support vehicle to travel all but the single-track sections of this trail. That means you’d better have a good map so you know where you can and cannot go.

Those good maps are provided by COPMOBA, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, a non-profit group of volunteers who build single-track mountain trails, produce maps and interact with public land agencies and private landowners to protect access for mountain bikes. Individual memberships start as low as $25. Go to http://www.copmoba.org for more information.

Although this trail was built by and for mountain bike enthusiasts, I don’t think they mind the hikers, especially this time of year. There were pockets of water along the route, but for the most part, the trail was dry. A good portion of this section runs along a large Kayenta Sandstone bench, and the trail is easily followed since much of this stretch is accessible by high-clearance 4WD.

To a point.

That point is about where the trail drops into Rough Canyon, then climbs back up.

It’s about 2.25 miles from the parking lot to the bottom of Rough Canyon, and it’s a healthy climb back up, but that long Kayenta Sandstone ridge was certainly the first place the snow melted, and we didn’t damage the resource at all.


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