Explore the GMUG during National Outdoor Month
Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests
June is National Get Outdoors month (#getoutdoors) and the Forest service is encouraging people to get outside and enjoy our public lands-whether it is paddling, biking, climbing, hiking, fishing or nature-viewing.
The Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are slowly thawing out from late spring snows and cold temperatures. Alpine areas are still snow-packed and many places are inaccessible, including popular mountain passes that are just now being plowed open. However, there are still plenty of lower elevation places to hike or bike, with lakes and rivers to fish or kayak and inspiring views of snowcapped peaks to take in!
Most of the campgrounds throughout the GMUG are open at this time with the exception of Lake Irwin near Crested Butte, which is snow-covered and inaccessible. Jumbo, Ward and Spruce Grove campgrounds on the Grand Mesa are now open. Island and Little Bear Campground may be open on Friday (6/19). For the most updated information on campground openings and reservations check the GMUG website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gmug/recreation. Campsites at most of the GMUG campgrounds can be reserved through http://www.recreation.gov/. A few campgrounds operated by the Forest Service do not require reservations. Many areas of the forest are open to dispersed camping (camping outside of developed campgrounds), while some areas of the Forest, particularly in the Gunnison National Forest, are limited to “designated dispersed “campsites. Campers are encouraged to use previously–disturbed campsites and camp at least 100 feet from riparian areas (creeks or rivers) and follow “Leave No Trace” practices.
“Within the last week or so most of the primary lakes along the bench of the Grand Mesa (Ward Lake, Island Lake, Cobbett, Barron, Alexander, Eggleston, Ward Creek Reservoir and all the Mesa Lakes) are now ice free!” reports Mike Wiley, Information Specialist at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife are just now beginning to stock fish in the lower elevation lakes. Visit the Colorado Park and Wildlife’s website at: http://cpw.state.co.us for the latest fishing and stocking reports.
“Everything on the forest is about a week behind normal” said Jeff Field, Visitor Information Specialist on the Gunnison Ranger District, “wildflowers at the lower elevations are beginning to bloom right now.”
If you are looking for a great hiking spot, it’s best to select trails at lower elevations or plan to turn around when you reach the snow line. According to Field, “Everything above 11,000 feet is still snow packed, but conditions change by the week.” Popular trails that are still inaccessible due to snow include the Highline Trail near Telluride, the Craig Crest Trail (spurs can be hiked) on the Grand Mesa, Blue Lake and Blaine Basin Trails near Ridgway, Black Bear Trail and Bridge to Heaven near Ouray.
Trails below 10,000 feet or on south facing slopes are drying out, but may still be muddy. Here are a few suggested trails to enjoy on the GMUG at this time. In the Ouray area suggested trail include: Baldy Peak, Oak Creek Trail, Perimeter Trail and Silver Shield Near Telluride suggested trails include: Bear Creek Trail, Deep Creek Trail, Wilson Mesa Trail, Galloping Goose Trail, and trails around Woods Lake. In the vicinity of Kebler Pass suggested trails are: Dark Canyon Trail, Three Lakes Trails near Lost Lake Campground. In the Stephens Gulch area suggested trails are: Terror Creek Trail, and Elk Park Trail.
In Gunnison suggested trails include: Summerville Trailhead, north end of Fossil Ridge wilderness and Mill Creek Trailhead, east side of West Elk wilderness. These as well as other trails leading to higher elevation can be hiked a few miles until about the 11,000-12,000 foot level where the snow-pack begins. Please call the Forests’ District Offices (8:00am to 4:30 pm Monday through Fridays) for the latest information on trail conditions: Norwood District Office (970) 327-4261, Ouray District Office (970) 240 -5300, Grand Mesa Visitor Center (970)856-4153, Paonia District Office (970) 527-4131and Gunnison District office (970) 642-4400. The GMUG website: (http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/gmug/recreation/hiking) has a list of trails for each area of the forest with descriptions and elevation information.Most of the forest roads are very muddy at this time and motorized users are encouraged to use caution while travelling the forest roads and avoid secondary roads to reduce road damage.
“So many people are visiting this area enjoying music festivals, and other events and they want to hike or ride in the surrounding forests, but this year, the high country will be fairly inaccessible until sometime in July,” advised Kathy Peckham, Recreation Specialist for the Norwood Ranger District. She added, “One bonus from the late snows is thatalpine areas should be packed with an outrageous color display of wildflowers by July.”