Located in western Colorado, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests offer some of the most stunning horse trails in the state. With their vast expanses of wilderness, diverse landscapes, and breathtaking vistas, these national forests provide the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable equestrian adventure. Whether you are an experienced rider or a novice, these forests have a variety of trails that cater to all skill levels. Here are some of the best horse trails at Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests.
1. Crag Crest Trail
Known for its panoramic views and jaw-dropping scenery, the Crag Crest Trail is a must-ride for any horse enthusiast. This 10-mile loop traverses the crest of the Grand Mesa, offering riders glimpses of alpine lakes, lush meadows, and vibrant wildflowers. The trail is relatively challenging, with steep inclines in certain sections, but the payoff is well worth it. The commanding view overlooking the Forest Service Road 121, along with the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding peaks, is awe-inspiring. Keep in mind that this trail is heavily trafficked, so plan accordingly.
2. Dyke Trail
The Dyke Trail is another gem within the Grand Mesa National Forest. This scenic trail takes riders through dense forests, open meadows, and along the rim of the mesa. Offering a variety of terrain, from smooth cruising paths to slightly technical sections, the Dyke Trail can be enjoyed by riders of all skill levels. The highlight of the trail is the overlook on the western end, where riders are rewarded with a breathtaking vista of the surrounding mountains. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as the Dyke Trail is known for frequent wildlife sightings.
3. Black Canyon Trail
Located within the Gunnison National Forest, the Black Canyon Trail is a true hidden gem for equestrians. This moderate 7-mile trail winds through a dense pine forest and brings riders to the edge of the famous Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Admire the dramatic cliffs and steep drop-offs that characterize this unique natural wonder. The trail offers opportunities for water play and picnicking at several points along the way, making it ideal for a day trip with your equine companion.
4. Deadman Forest Trail
For riders seeking a longer and more challenging ride, the Deadman Forest Trail is an excellent option. This 16-mile loop in the Uncompahgre National Forest showcases stunning scenery, including dense aspen groves, pristine alpine meadows, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail is well-maintained but does require some navigational skill due to intersecting trails. Keep your camera handy as there are numerous photo-worthy spots along the way.
5. Jumbo Mountain Trail
If you're up for an advanced-level ride, the Jumbo Mountain Trail is a trail that will test your horsemanship skills. This 25-mile loop combines meandering forest paths with steep climbs and descents, providing riders with a challenging and rewarding experience. As the trail gains elevation, riders are treated to breathtaking vistas of the West Elk Mountains and Curecanti National Recreation Area. Keep in mind that this trail is remote and rugged, so pack accordingly and be prepared for changing weather conditions.
Before setting out on your horseback adventure in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, it's crucial to be adequately prepared. Always check weather conditions, trail closures, and make sure to carry a map, compass, and essential safety gear. Respect the environment and fellow trail users by leaving no trace and following any regulations or guidelines set by the national forests. With caution and proper planning, exploring these extraordinary horse trails will create lasting memories of your experience in the stunning Colorado wilderness.