Hold for mud, sage grouse and shed antler hunting
By Cayla Vidmar
Warmer weather might have you chomping at the bit to hit the local trails around Gunnison with mountain bikes, but Hartman Rocks recreation area is still off limits due to mud, and the Signal Peak area behind Western Colorado University has new closures this season that users need to know about.
“Hartman Rocks is unique because it has a seasonal mud closure. When the snow starts to melt and makes the area muddy, the trail systems are closed to all motorized and mechanized use until everything is dried out,” says Tim Kugler, executive director of Gunnison Trails. Hiking is still allowed during the mud season.
Kugler explains that if warm, dry weather continues, he’s guessing Hartman Rocks will have another two weeks before the area dries out, or the beginning of May.
There are a number of seasonal closures at the Signal Peak trail system that are not mud-related, and are hard closures based on Gunnison sage grouse and shed antler hunting issues.
According to the spring trail update page on the Gunnison Trails website (GunnisonTrails.org), the northwest portion of the Signal Peak area is closed to all users from March 15 to May 15 for Gunnison sage grouse conservation.
The entire Signal Peak area is closed to motorized use from January 1 to May 15, and is closed to mountain bikes from January 1 to April 30, with no biking use before 10 a.m. from May 1 to May 15.
For hikers, there is no use in the Signal Peak area before 10 a.m. from March 15 to May 15.
According to Kugler, these closures are in place to protect critical wildlife habitat for mule deer and elk populations, along with the federally listed threatened species, the Gunnison sage grouse.
“Areas like Salida and Montrose are 60 degrees and sunny, and their trails are good to go this time of year, so if you’re really hankering to go ride, head out of the valley,” advises Kugler.
A Signal Peak map, along with up-to-date trail opening information can be found at GunnisonTrails.org. You can also sign up for the Gunnison Trails newsletter to receive email updates when trails open.
In other Gunnison Trails news, the non-profit recently received grant funding of $185,000 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife Non-Motorized State Trails for more trail development and signage in the 14,000-acre Signal Peak area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Kugler says, “We’ll be hitting the ground running this summer,” on phase one of its Signal Peak trail project, and plans to build 9.8 miles of single track trails during the 2019 to 2021 seasons. Additionally, Gunnison Trails will reroute, retrofit and maintain 7.7 miles of trails, including Rasta Gulch, Chicken Scratch, Shoelace, Northwoods, and Music Rocks trails.