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Back to the Trails: Gunnison, Colorado

Jul 6, 2020
by Brice Shirbach  


Situated along the western slopes of the continental divide, and centered at the convergence of many valleys in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, Gunnison is a literal wide open playground for riders and is also now wide open for visitors as well! College town vibes combined with 750 miles of trail within a 30 minute drive of downtown, as well as an incredibly diverse selection of natural resources available for any manner of recreational pursuit makes for a quintessential one-stop-shopping opportunity for visitors. The seat of Gunnison County is home to nearly 6,000 residents and welcomes many times that in visitors in a normal year. While COVID-019 has obviously flipped the script on the entire planet, things are slowly but surely trending upward, which means that those who have been eagerly awaiting to plan some trips are now able to do so, and Gunnison is just as eagerly awaiting you and your bike.

Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership


Lay of the Land:
Gunnison may sit at the floor of a valley, but its elevation of just under 8,000 feet above sea level usually means that Spring and Summer temps are comfortable, with only the month of July averaging high temps in the 80's. While many may pass through town on their way to the mountain playground that is Crested Butte, Gunnison itself is home to two distinct and sizable trail networks: Hartman's Rocks and Signal Peak. Both offer primarily XC-oriented, high desert riding, and both are an easy pedal from town.

Hartman Rocks is home to over 40 miles of singletrack, providing opportunities for beginners and advanced riders alike. Trails work their way through sage brush, granite formations, and groves of cottonwood. For advanced riders, Freefall is a must ride. You can also string together Ring Dike, Josho's, Rattlesnake, and Beck's for all of the granite you can handle.

The area's latest addition, Signal Peak, is going to be a bit more mellow, but still plenty of fun, with close to 30 miles of singletrack and trails geared toward the more intermediate rider. Head up Ridgeline before descending on Chicken Wing, a 2 mile descent with big views and high speeds.

For full on adventure shredding, Monarch Crest and Fossil Ridge are close by and offer up a very different scale of riding compared to the networks in town and are just a short drive east of town. Hitting those rides in early Autumn would be a pretty optimal life choice.


Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership

What's New:
The City of Gunnison is the namesake seat of the county, and is home to nearly 6,000 full time residents. In addition, Western Colorado University is located here, with 3,000 students in total, most of whom are pursuing undergraduate degrees. WCU has a Division-2 mountain bike program, and has begun racking up national titles in recent years, and is one of the university's more unique draws for prospective students. WCU also houses a co-working space called The ICElab. Funded with support from a combination of private donors, as well as federal and state agencies, Gunnison, Crested Butte and the surrounding communities, ICElab is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and internet and includes office and open co-working space, fully equipped conference rooms, and a cafe. It has also proven to be a draw for long-term visitors looking to remain productive while working remotely and enjoying the trails in the Gunnison-Crested Butte region.

The apres shred scene has seen an uptick in recent years, with establishments including The Dive and Alpine Brewing leading the way. As is the case with the rest of the country, masks are always appreciated and are encouraged when visiting local businesses.

Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Tom Runcy.
Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership


Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership

Local Bike Shops:
Gunnison is home to four separate shops, which include Doubleshot Cyclery, Rock 'n Roll Sports, Tomichi Cycles, and All Sports Replay. All four offer comprehensive service and bike rentals, as well as sales and extensive knowledge of the local riding. Additionally, just down the road in Crested Butte is one of the nation's leading adaptive sports programs, the Adaptive Sports Center.

Local Mountain Biking Clubs:
Gunnison Trails is a non-profit trail advocacy organization established to assist land managers and other organizations and stakeholders, in maintaining existing trails, educating users on responsible trail-based recreation and pursuing new opportunities for biking, running and hiking trails which promote sustainable trail use throughout Gunnison County.

The Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association are obviously responsible for trails in Crested Butte, but they also maintain Doctor Park, a popular trail equidistant to both Gunnison and Crested Butte.

Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership

Restaurants and Accommodation:
The Dive and High Alpine are both heavily involved in the local riding scene. If you're keen on caffein, your best bets are Doubleshot Cyclery (coffee, beers, and bikes) and Tributary Coffee Roasters. Other "Gunni" staples include Gunnisack, W Cafe, and The Firebrand. These places might not be quite as involved with the mountain bike community, but are well worth the visit nonetheless.

Gunnison has been opening lodging options in phases per state guidance, and assuming that the measured approach continues, they should be 100% open to visitors by July. The Inn at Tomichi Village and Wanderlust Hostel are two independent names in Gunnison. VRBO and Airbnb searches will yield plenty of results, and of course there are always the big name brand lodging options available.

Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership
Back to the Trails photos courtesy of Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism and Prosperity Partnership

Must Dos:
If you fancy yourself a fan of wildlife, then you're in the right place. The Gunnison Valley is one of the best places in Colorado for spotting wildlife. Large herds of elk and mule deer roam the valley during the winter and can often be seen right from the highway. During the spring and early summer the Gunnison Valley is a stop-over point for every sort of migratory bird from the common robin to rare hawks and owls.

If you’re looking for the best time of year to come sightseeing for wildlife it’s hard to beat the early fall. During this time of year animals are more active as they look towards the coming winter and the hardship it will bring. Bears are easily spotted out looking for berries and nuts in the drainages, around town, and elk and mule deer group into huge herds in anticipation of the rut. This is the time to see the impressive sight of 200+ elk crossing a mountain pass bugling and fighting as they move towards the pastureland in the valleys.

Autumn in Gunnison is out of this world, particularly when the aspen groves begin to burst into gold, so plan accordingly.

For detailed ride itineraries and how to get the most out of your time in Gunnison, visit CBGtrails.com, Gunnison-Crested Butte’s official trail recreation hub.


Gunnison mountain biking trails

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67 Comments

  • 61 3
 Colorado is closed... Sorry folks, the moose out front should of told you....
  • 7 0
 Haha, exactly. Front-range is packed right now! This is a great write-up. Gunnison is a gem where lodging & food are cheap compared to mountain towns and the riding is great for those who like to earn their turns.
  • 17 0
 I was born and raised in Gunny. Remember when Hartmans was the wild west with 4x4, dirtbikes, and parties. Gunnison Trails really cleaned up the place and has done a great job at revamping most of the trails. Also still open to moto and the dreaded ebikers with no issues.

As much as i want to keep the tourons out of there, the local businesses need visitors right now. Many of which are on the edge of making it. You can visit BUT be respectful!! Wear masks in public, socially distance, and don't leave trash/ dog poop around if your camping. Don't create new camp sites, fire rings, or drive over vegetation etc. Thanks!
  • 46 13
 Maybe not the best time did this? Massive spikes in cases and I see these outstate tags out in small communities everywhere around me. Could be disastrous for many of these communities that don’t have large hospitals.
Please don’t visit CO
  • 16 3
 Where I lived is clogged with tourists also...at least 50% of plates are out of state...beach is packed everyday, and therefore the cases and fear have surged. Bars are closed again, July 4th fireworks were cancelled...life is semi standstill again. Maybe if people just stay home for a bit instead of this need to go travel and fill up places we can move past this mayhem and get a "normal" life back
  • 14 7
 @GlassGuy: this article seems a bit reckless and irresponsible given the surge of cases in the US. Maybe focus on areas of the world where its safe for residents to ‘vacation’
  • 4 2
 Hah, "things are slowly but surely trending upward." I'm not sure that that's a good thing, guys.
  • 1 1
 @GlassGuy: Sounds like SoCal to me?
  • 3 26
flag moondustdictator (Jul 6, 2020 at 8:53) (Below Threshold)
 Everyone is being way to extra. When did flattening the curve become find a cure. Its ridiculous if you want to wear a mask do it but this is getting stupid
  • 6 23
flag moondustdictator (Jul 6, 2020 at 8:56) (Below Threshold)
 @artistformlyknowasdan: Is there a surge in deaths though? No. More testing means more cases. Everybody loves to live in fear.
  • 11 3
 @moondustdictator: do you even understand what’s going on?
  • 8 1
 @moondustdictator: Flattening the curve has always been flattening the curve. It’s just that the curve is quickly rising in many states and counties. Look at data now and then and you might realize that.
  • 3 0
 @artistformlyknowasdan: If you look at the current map of covid cases, there isn't anywhere where it's "safe" right now. Maybe the northeast like Maine or Vermont, but that probably won't last long.
  • 2 2
 @GlassGuy: are you suggesting we wait for a cure before riding bikes again...outside...in the UV light????
  • 12 2
 Yeah this doesn’t seem like responsible content... as an ER/ICU nurse in CO who has to deal with this shit every day at work, please take this seriously! I’ve canceled all my travel plans this year, please recreate near home. It’ll be there when this disease blows over!
@briceshirbach
  • 6 1
 @moondustdictator: Deaths only show up 2-3 weeks after a surge in hospitalizations so that’s not a good metric to look at your current situation. Hospitalizations are most definitely surging many places and here in a week or two after the 4th it’s going to be pretty bad.
  • 3 0
 @moondustdictator: Nearly 130,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus and more than 2,800,000 people have been infected www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/05/887445479/u-s-covid-19-deaths-near-130-000-florida-and-texas-report-record-case-numbers
  • 12 0
 hey @artistformlyknowasdan, fair point and quite honestly this was supposed to only be visible for Colorado users, but I failed to ensure that when it hit the newsfeed. This is a new series we're putting out to try and encourage folks to explore trails closer to home. The goal is definitely not intended to promote out of state visitors...particularly given our recent spike. We should have it fixed now...cheers!
  • 6 0
 @maxlombardy: this was supposed to only be visible for Colorado users, but I failed to ensure that when it hit the newsfeed. This is a new series we're putting out to try and encourage folks to explore trails closer to home. The goal is definitely not intended to promote out of state visitors...particularly given our recent spike. We should have it fixed now...cheers!
  • 1 0
 @maxlombardy: what makes you think this disease “will blow over” ??? Doesn’t sound at all scientific to me.
  • 2 0
 @briceshirbach: thx for acknowledging this.
  • 2 1
 @maxlombardy: thx u for your service
  • 1 1
 @moondustdictator: That response sums you up perfectly, thanks.
  • 1 7
flag unrooted (Jul 6, 2020 at 10:59) (Below Threshold)
 @chacou: Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
Heart disease: 647,457
Cancer: 599,108
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
Diabetes: 83,564
Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173

www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm
  • 4 1
 @unrooted: Plug into that list between Stroke and Alzheimer's, Covid-19: 130,000 (and counting)
  • 2 0
 @unrooted: Curious, how many of those diseases and causes of death can be prevented simply by social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands?
  • 20 3
 Can you tell all of the CO plates in Moab to go back home also. I hear Bentonville is cool.
  • 20 0
 Who’s dumb enough to go to Moab in July???
  • 6 1
 @unrooted: Literally anyone who hasn't been to moab in july.
  • 1 0
 @PJWilliamsMTB69: Having ridden there in both early September and late March, I'd never go in July.
  • 12 0
 Instead of just a quick "While COVID-019 has obviously flipped the script on the entire planet, things are slowly but surely trending upward, which means that those who have been eagerly awaiting to plan some trips are now able to do so, and Gunnison is just as eagerly awaiting you and your bike." Maybe it would be more prudent to include some resources about how Gunnison, and Colorado as a whole, are handling Covid and what public health orders are in place (ie: bars are closed, restaurants are limited capacity if open). I love Gunny, keep it safe and please be responsible and respectful for the sake of others.

covid19.gunnisoncounty.org/community-resources/public-health-orders
covid19.colorado.gov/data/case-data
www.cpr.org/coronavirus
coloradosun.com/coronavirus
  • 5 0
 ...for that matter there's also Stage 1 Fire Restrictions in place in Gunnison National Forest (if you're planning on camping)
www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gmug/home/?cid=STELPRDB5420083
www.coemergency.com/p/fire-bans-danger.html
  • 9 1
 Well, it ain't "The Mountain Bike Capital of the World," but I'm sure it's OK.
  • 4 1
 haha...stupid Bentonville and their marketing gimmick.
  • 3 0
 Natural features have nothing on a machine built trails. s/
  • 1 0
 I thought steamboat claimed that a few yearsback
  • 5 0
 Although we live just a couple hours away I finally had a chance to ride Hartman Rocks last week and had a great time. Travel an hour North to CB and every other car has a Texas plate. Crazy
  • 4 0
 "...things are slowly but surely trending upward." Actually, I'd call it a surge upward in covid cases. Bad timing for this article, even if they need the tourist $. Please don't travel to Colorado.
  • 5 0
 Take this down, Gunnison already had a MASSIVE Covid outbreak bought on by tourists, its took 2 our long term locals. We dont need a second wave.
  • 3 0
 I loved that Gunnison county told all second homeowners to stay the F away when the shit first went down and pissed off the Texans so much the Texas AG wrote some whiney ass letter to Gunnison saying their protection order was unconstitutional! Routt county did the sesame thing but Texans and now Arizonans are flooding this town. Ugh. Stay home ppl, please!
  • 6 0
 Great travel article, not the best timing...
  • 3 0
 Stay at home this summer... I know that isn't what people want to do, but stop travelling and creating more possible exposure to small mountain town where it was once under control....
  • 4 0
 @briceshirbach Bad timing homie. how about reposting this after a treatment or vaccine is available?
  • 6 3
 All of those mountain towns were hit real hard by the virus. Good thing Covid cases are rising, just in time for summer!!
  • 3 2
 Please show your sources, our Mtn town was reducing hours at the hospital...and we are in the most populated state.
  • 2 0
 @unrooted: Summit County, where one of the first cases of Covid was reported in Colorado, and neighboring Eagle County had especially high case numbers for their capacity early on given the amount of tourist traffic to the ski resorts, once those were ordered to close and those counties basically issued restrictions to non-residents, including sending home temporary workers, they got things under control. I have many friends in medicine in Denver and Summit & Eagle Counties, and they had hours cut back because fewer people were coming into the ER for broken leg skiing, people were rescheduling/cancelling annual wellness checks as offices were encouraging people to stay away unless seriously ill, and fewer hours booked for surgery due to non-emergency medical procedures like an ACL repair were being scheduled out as hospitals were focused on preparing for a early spike, focusing on to preserve PPE, and conserving limited ICU space in those mountain hospitals, ie: Summit County Medical Center has 8 ICU beds, at one point 6 of those were occupied. summitcountyco.gov/1323/Case-Data it's still a sketchy situation
  • 1 0
 @chacou: ICUs are designed to be close to capacity at all times. That's how the hospital justifies having X number of beds. Most hospitals can increase that capacity if needed.
  • 1 0
 @ksilvey10: :thinking: www.npr.org/2020/03/25/819940409/icu-bed-capacity-varies-widely-nationwide-see-how-your-area-stacks-up "Not only do ICU capabilities vary from hospital to hospital, but also some parts of the country have far more critical care beds by population than others."
  • 1 0
 I can also attest that their hospital is great for a small town. Broke my hand riding the bike park in CB a few years back and had to have surgery immediately. They did a great job and were super helpful.
  • 3 0
 I already know I don't have the nuts to ride that massive rock face.
  • 2 0
 I would say that Hartman is more "trail" and less XC. There's some good tech and jumps/flow in there.
  • 2 1
 And make sure you visit Rock and Roll Cycles to say hi to Dave Moe (Buddy Bear), a legend in Gunny !
  • 1 0
 Thanks for posting this, Gunnison is a great town. Headed back at the end of July to ride with my son who lives there.
  • 2 0
 Good old sunny Gunny!
  • 1 0
 Such a great town, I go to school there!
  • 1 0
 Ouray just a short drive away is worth the visit too.
  • 3 3
 Gunnison is a dump
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