The Mountain Biking Vacation - Hartman Rocks Recreational Area, Gunnison, Colorado

5:16 AM

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area - a beautiful place for a day of riding

The Spouse and I are not what you would call gregarious people.  If given a choice between a night out with friends or a night in with a puzzle (yes, a puzzle) we will always pick the puzzle.  The one time we push ourselves out of that lovely comfort zone is when biking in a new town – we will always seek out the local bike shop to see what’s up.  It’s a great way to see what the locals are riding and where the locals are riding.  Our stop at Tomichi Cycles proved to be a visit that really paid off.  We had already heard about the great riding out at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area, but the helpful peeps at Tomichi gave us a lot of information on which trails to link together into an awesome couple of dirt riding days.

Trail maps are free at local bike shops
First, a little information about Hartman Rocks.  It is a multiuse area (hiking, mountain biking, motocross, jeep, and cattle…the cows are around only in certain parts of the year) located just outside of Gunnison, Colorado.  There are a series of dirt roads that connect various single-track trails together, and while the single-track is well signed the jeep roads are labeled with numbers that don’t actually appear on the trial map.  This was a bit frustrating, and our first hour in the Rocks was spent going in a couple of circles.  The geography, as you can see from the photographs, is wide open so you can at least see where you want to go once you get your bearings.

Riding Jack's Trail
But the single-track…oh the single-track!  There is a trail for everyone out at Hartman Rocks.  You want more rocks than you can shake a stick at?  You’ve got it.  Want to shoot down a trail and rail some berms?  No problem.  Looking to work on your climbing and descending skills?  Lots of short-to-mid-length ups and downs to keep you happy.  Here are some notes on some of Hartman Rock’s more notable trails:

Jack’s Trail will take you up to the top of the ridge from the parking lot.  Though it is not an extraordinarily technical trail, it does give the rider a nice introduction to the local terrain – a nice mixture of rocks and large-granular sand that was pretty firm and forgiving.

Top of the World, Gateway, and Josie’s are a fun mixture of technical rock climbing and flowy single-track.  Basically if you see a large rock formation on the horizon, you can guarantee that the trail is headed that way.  These sections were fun little puzzles – challenging you to work out the best lines, hone your rock skills, and screw up your courage to attempt a feature that might make you a bit nervous.  I did take a nasty tumble going down a rock-strewn descent and wound up with a nice strawberry and cacti spines sticking out of my elbow, but these trails are firmly within the intermediate level (like just about any crash, it was mainly my fault…ok, all my fault).

The real fun is at Fenceline, The Luge, Rocky Ridge, and Becks where the trails are expertly designed for some kick-ass descending.  Every corner is banked smoothly, giving you the confidence you need to really lay off the brakes.  Though the trails are all two-way, I definitely suggest Fenceline from east to west, and the other three from south to north to really get the most out of them.

See those rocks over there?  Yeah, you'll go over them!
The only downside to Hartman Rocks?  No trees.  You are really out in the open all day, so a hot and sunny day can really drain your energy.  Bring plenty of water and food, and keep an eye on the sky for thunderstorms.  You will always get plenty of warning when a storm is coming (really, you can see forever from up top), but when they hit they can bring dangerous lightning and incredible winds that are capable of blowing you right off your bike.

In the end we only scratched the surface of Hartman Rocks – there are many more miles of trails we weren’t able to check out (particularly in the southern section).  Some of the best advice for travel I’ve ever heard is to always assume you will come back, that way you won’t worry about stuffing everything into your trip.  We will definitely be back to Hartman Rocks!

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