Trails with Special Designations
The National Trail System has three categories of trails with distinct objectives. National Scenic Trails protect scenic corridors primarily in the backcountry; National Historic Trails recognize prominent routes of exploration, migration, commerce and military actions; and National Recreation Trails are shorter trails that vary in length and difficulty and are managed at the local level.
On the GMUG, the following trails have special designations:
National Recreation Trails (NRTs)
Bear Creek Trail- This is a wonderfully diverse trail, from rocky switchbacks and narrow cliff-bound shelves through spruce-fir forests to waterfalls, along high ridges of alpine tundra. A diverse hike up a spectacular canyon to a scenic mine site. Although the creek bottom itself is far too rugged to follow, miners during the late nineteenth century were not deterred, and constructed a trail into the upper reaches of the drainage. In so doing they built one of the most improbable mountain trails in the Colorado Rockies. This hike follows the first 4.2 miles of the route, which has been designated as a national recreation trail. Almost all of the Bear Creek National Recreation Trail (including the entire day hike) is located outside the boundaries of the Uncompahgre Wilderness, but if extended into American Flats the Bear Creek provides a spectacular entry into the southwest portion of the wilderness area. The Bear Creek Trail is sure to satisfy, either as a day hike or as an approach to a longer hike in the heart of the Uncompahgre
Crag Crest Trail–This trail is a particularly scenic section of the long east-west ridge that separates western Colorado’s Grand Mesa into its Gunnison and Colorado River watersheds. Some sources claim that the 50-square-mile mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. It rises abruptly from the desert environment east of Grand Junction into a lush conifer forest averaging over 10,000 feet above sea level. Dozens of deep blue lakes lie just below the crest of the mesa, making this an especially pretty hike (brochure and map).
Crag Crest Cross-Country Ski Trail- The winter ski trail shares the Crag Crest name, but is a distinct route from the summer NRT. The winter NRT is a series of ski loops ranging in size from 7.5 miles to 0.8 miles. A total of 11.5 miles are designated. The winter NRT originates at the County Lime trailhead on State Highway 65 passes through the Scales Lake area and returns to the Country Line trailhead. The majority of the trail system is located within the Scales Lake area. The area is managed, packed, groomed and signed for user convenience (map).
National Scenic Trails (NSTs)
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail- Approximately seventy-nine (79) miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) are currently located on the Gunnison National Forest. The CDT winds through some of Colorado’s most incredible landscapes: the spectacular alpine tundra of the South San Juan, Weminuche, and La Garita Wildernesses where the CDT remains at or above 11,000 feet for nearly 70 miles, remnants of the late 1800’s ghost town of Hancock that served the Alpine Tunnel, the awe-inspiring Collegiate Peaks near Leadville, the highest city in America, geologic oddities like The Window, Knife Edge, and Devil’s Thumb, the towering 14,270 foot Grays Peak – the highest point on the CDT, Rocky Mountain National Park with its rugged snowcapped skyline, the remote Never Summer Wilderness, and the broad valleys and numerous glacial lakes and cirques of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. There are four major access points on the Gunnison National Forest: Carson Saddle, Stony Pass, Spring Creek Pass and San Luis Pass.
National Historic Trails (NHTs)
Old Spanish National Historic Trail- This trail follows the route of Spanish traders and explorers during the period of 1829-1848 traveling from old Mexico to California. This historic route follows State Highway 114 corridor through the Gunnison National Forest.
National Discovery Trail
The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is being proposed as the first of this new category of long distance trails. The ADT links communities, cities, parks, and wilderness using existing trails, greenways and country roads. The proposed ADT enters the GMUG National Forest at the Continental Divide and travels west to Crested Butte and on to the White River National Forest. The route returns to the GMUG via the Grand Mesa following the Sunlight-Powderhorn Snowmobile Trail to Kannah Creek.
State Designated Trail
The Colorado Trail- The Colorado Trail is an intrastate non-motorized trail hat originates in Denver and terminates in Durango. The Trail enters the GMUG National Forest at Monarch Pass. South of Monarch Pass to the Spring Creek Trail, the Colorado Trail is coincidental with the CDNST trail. North of the Monarch Pass, the trail follows a separate route.
Other Noteworthy Trails on the GMUG
The Sunlight- Powderhorn Winter Trail (S-P) is a winter over snow trail that connects the Sunlight Ski Area on the White River National Forest with the Powderhorn Ski Area on the Grand Mesa National Forest. The S-P trail is managed cooperatively by the two forests. One of the goals of this trails are to provide a sustained high-quality winter snowmobile trail program and increase coordination with the American Discovery Trail where the trails are coincidental.