It was Monday afternoon in April and snow had long since left the Gunnison Valley. The area known as Hartman Rocks had just opened after a brief stint under winter’s white blanket.
With longtime locals calling the cold months of 2011 to 2012 the “Weirdest Winter Ever,” the roads on the Bureau of Land Management land were never groomed for cross-country skiing as they were in previous winters and the trails were inaccessible to mountain bikes for a mere two and a half months in one of the coldest places in Colorado.
With temperatures in the 50s Fahrenheit, the small parking lot at the base of Kill Hill was swarming with mountain bikers out for their first rides of the year.
There were looks of disbelief that the trails had melted out so early and the sense of excitement about the local trails was evident.
Located just three miles from downtown Gunnison, the trail system, located on a high mesa, provides for top notch riding ranging from smooth and fast to slow and technical with spectacular sunset viewing on after-work rides.
There are over 20 trails in the Hartman Rocks area that are crisscrossed with a series of dirt roads that can be linked up in a seemingly infinite number of loops. Made up of mostly decomposed granite, the trails are a combination of smooth singletrack weaving through endless seas of sagebrush and large chunks of granite, providing endless lines to suit riders of all abilities. In fact, it’s this granite that makes the area truly unique, as it’s one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to ride granite slickrock.
Every Gunnison local has a favorite loop and a favorite direction to ride the loop, but based on the wide variety of classic loops that are ridden, all the trails are enjoyable in either direction. Trails can be linked up into loops ranging from ideal for a beginner to loops that will challenge any rider both aerobically and technically.
Beginner: For a ride perfect for beginners, park at the top of Kill Hill, the large hill that rises steeply from the main parking lot of Hartman’s. Head out toward the sage and take Main Street east, passing Becks and Joshos until you hit the top of Sea of Sage. Enjoy the sweeping corners and gradual downhill before hooking up with Luge. Embrace a quick climb before continuing your roller coaster ride down through the expansive views. At the end of Luge, take a right up the road to return to your car.
Intermediate: Everyone has a favorite lunch ride, and as people are generally creatures of habit, they will repeat the same loop many times, occasionally switching the direction or adding a new trail for variety. Most loops ridden counterclockwise will start from the parking lot, riding up Jacks to Behind the Rocks and then adding a combination of Alonzo’s, Fenceline, Gateway, Josie’s, Skyline, and Rocky Ridge before descending back to the parking lot via Becks and Collarbone Alley.
Advanced: In addition to many of the trails that can be described as “rocks requiring trials skills connected by long sections of perfectly smooth trail” there are a handful of trails at Hartman Rocks that cater specifically to the technically adept rider. For a series of harrowing but reasonable rock moves, Rattlesnack is a local favorite. Technical Becks and Freefall also provide lines and challenges worthy of bikes with longer travel, but can be ridden on more traditional cross-country rigs. The entire front side of the area is dotted with trails that have been used as tracks for downhill races by the cycling team at Western State College. While short, trails such as the Notch and V-Drop are ideal for larger bikes and, with relatively easy access, can even be ridden without a shuttle.
For those looking for a long ride, the classic outer loop that is followed by the Gunnison Growler bike race links together most of the trails on the outer perimeter of the area. For some extra mileage, the newly completed Aberdeen loop adds more spectacular singletrack just south of main Hartman Rocks’ area.