Winter at Hartman Rocks

Hartman’s offers more than summer fun

By Wyatt J. Ewert

Where is there fun in the winter in the south end of the valley? For those asking such a question, Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is the answer. Usually known for its warm mountain biking and comfortable hiking in the spring and fall, Hartman Rocks is a Bureau of Land Management recreational area, open for visitors who want to experience a variety of fun and exciting recreational activities such as hiking, strapping on Nordic skis or jumping on fat bikes, and enjoying the vast expanses of winter.

The Hartman Rocks area has always been a bit of a secret refuge for high desert fans, especially in the spring through the fall. But now recreationists are discovering there is no reason not to enjoy this treasure even when the temperatures drop.

The BLM works to ensure that Hartman Rocks is available for visitors even during the winter, usually receiving anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 visitors in a good winter each year. In the past 15 years, the Hartman Rocks Recreational Area has had help from the Gunnison Nordic organization to ensure that classic and skate ski trails are perfectly groomed for visitors upon arrival.

Those who are already familiar with Hartman Rocks and are looking for something new will have something to look forward to this year. The managers of BLM plan on, with the help of Gunnison Trails, grooming single tracks for the very first time. These tracks are intended for hiking, snowshoeing and fat-biking. Skiing will be allowed, but the tracks are not intended for skis. “The plan is to have single-track routes groomed on the road system between Kill Hill and the Golf Course Trail; a few single track trails groomed like Sandy Wash, Tail Pipe, Becks and The Luge; as well as a single-track route groomed opposite the classic track on a few of the groomed cross-country ski trails to connect the single track routes,” says the Bureau of Land Management’s Kristi Murphy.

Updates on the grooming process will be posted on Gunnison Nordic and Gunnison Trails’ social medias and websites.

Other activities that visitors typically engage in include Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, or simply walking the dogs. Snowmobiling is allowed as well but only on the groomed skate track and visitors are asked to not ride snowmobiles on the groomed classic track.

On visitors’ typical feelings about Hartman Rocks, Murphy says, “People love the opportunities at Hartman Rocks in the winter. They enjoy the snow and the activities. Hartman Rocks is located just south of Gunnison and yet visitors can feel a sense of tranquility and at the same time a sense of adventure.”

If the atmosphere is not enough to get you heated up, there is a special event coming up to pull you into this natural treasure trove. The Kenny Mac Ski Fest, hosted by Gunnison Nordic, will be taking place at Hartman Rocks on January 26, 2019. The event will include classic ski races and skate ski races, as well as fat bike races.

These activities are not the only things that potential visitors have to look forward to, though. Those looking for a little more than sight-seeing and are in search of breath-taking environs will not leave the Hartman Rocks dissatisfied. “When visitors are enjoying one of their favorite winter activities at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area they are also visiting a very beautiful place,” explains Murphy. “Visitors will view scenic vistas of the San Juan and West Elk Mountains, rock formations topped with snow, snow and frost stuck to branches of trees and sage, and maybe even some wildlife.”

Hartman Rocks can be found through two different access points. For regular skiers and hikers, the Hartman Rocks Base Area parking lot is recommended. Located a little over two miles south of Gunnison, on County Road 38, this entrance requires visitors to climb a steep slope before reaching the bulk of the trails.

For new skiers and hikers, the entrance off McCabe’s Lane is advised. It is located four miles west of Gunnison Highway 50 where visitors can get to the trailheads after turning left on County Road 32. A 1.5-mile drive south will lead to the alternate parking lot.

Those in search of adventure in the winter will have much to look forward to this year. Hartman Rocks Recreation Area has always been a source of recreation for nature lovers, regardless of the weather. First-time visitors will discover that the winter will not cool down their fun so easily in this natural hotspot.

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