Our last visit to Hartman Rocks was with Tim Kugler, head of Gunnison Trails, which stewards the 8,000 acres of granite splendor. “To have this a few miles from town is pretty incredible,” he said. What an understatement.
Gunnison knows what it has. Main Street shops sell Hartman Rocks T-shirts and restaurant menu items are named for some of the preserve’s destinations. Hartman Rocks “is one of Gunnison’s greatest gems,” declares the tourism website, dubbing Hartman Rocks “one of western Colorado’s best-kept secrets.” Not in mountain biking circles.
Guardians of the 45-mile singletrack network say this high desert route rivals Fruita’s farther west. That town at the base of Colorado National Monument gets more international attention, and that’s just fine by Hartman Rocks’ loyalists.
“Give me one place to ride for the rest of my life, only one, and it would absolutely be Hartman Rocks,” David Wiens told us. The world champion racer and executive director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association started Gunnison Trails along with The Growler, the annual endurance fest held in the sprawling playground.
The Bureau of Land Management in recent years mandated camping at designated sites only, a response to the spread of dispersed fire rings. That suggests Hartman Rocks’ growing popularity, as riders of all abilities are finding something suitable.
Gunnison Trails’ latest creations are the Graceland and Aberdeen loops, which flow from sage-covered, boulder-strewn hills down to the willows of riparian corridors. They are among the area’s meandering, gentler tours, while Josho’s is one of the fastest options, a downhill feast. The black-diamond Rattlesnake showcases sharp berms, shreds down rock guts and takes riders airborne.
It’s not just adrenaline satisfied at Hartman Rocks. The outcrops can be appreciated by all, as well as the views of the Elk and San Juan mountains. The Ridge, starting with a short scramble, is popular for hikers.
Getting there: From Gunnison, continue on U.S. 50 west through town to County Road 38. Turn left and skirt the airport, reaching Hartman Rocks’ main parking lot after about 3 miles.
FYI: From March 15-May 15, roads and trails closed south of Powerline Road for sage-grouse conservation. Camping at 50 designated sites. For more information, contact the Gunnison Field Office at 970-642-4940.
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