Bicycling

So many options! Here are a few that will take you around the back roads of Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss. For even more possibilities, go to the US Forest Service site or the Delta County site to check out their new Bike Route Map Resource!

Trail: Barrow Mesa Loop

Approx. Mileage: 6.9 miles

Route: In Hotchkiss, start at Hotchkiss Ave and Cedar Rd. Go north on Cedar for .5 miles, cross HWY 92 and the railroad tracks, continue and turn left on Maple. Go .2 miles and turn right on Barrow Mesa Rd. Go 1.2 miles and turn left on L50. Go 2.1 miles and turn right onto 3300 Rd. Go 1.6 miles, cross HWY 92 and turn left on J80. Go 1.3 miles staying on J80, it will empty into Hotchkiss Ave.

Description: Mostly farm land; paved roads. Pleasant ride.

Trail: Black Bridge Tour

Approx. Mileage: Roughly 5 miles starting at Orchard Valley Farms

Route: Start at Orchard Valley Farms on Black Bridge Rd and go west to HWY 133 (.3 mi.). Turn right (watch for truck traffic), go .3 mi. and take the next left, Garvin Mesa Rd. Go up the hill for 1.2 mi. and turn left onto Reds Rd (or continue on to Terror Creek Winery). Continue on Reds for .8 mi. as it veers to left and turns Farmers Mine Rd. Go 1.8 mi. and turn left onto HWY 133 (watch for traffic). Go .2 mi. and take next right to Black Bridge Rd. (.3 mi. back to Orchard Valley Farms.)

Description: Nice views of the Valley from Terror Creek Winery. Mixture of paved and gravel roads. Over 400 foot elevation gain while on Garvin Mesa, a gravel road – watch for vehicles. You can start in Paonia by taking 7th Street from Fork Ave. east for .1 mi. when it becomes Black Bridge and go 1.2 mi and turn left at Grange Rd. to stay on Black Bridge. Go .3 mi. to Orchard Valley Farms.

Trail: Black Canyon Tour

Approx. Mileage: 12 miles

Route: Start at Crawford’s Stone House Inn on HWY 92 and Cedar and go south for 3.2 miles past the Reservoir and turn right onto Black Canyon Rd. Stay on Black Canyon Rd. (watch signs) and go 4 miles. Turn right onto 7745 Rd., a gravel toad. Go 1.2 miles and continue straight onto Fruitland Mesa Rd. Go 3.4 miles and turn right onto Cedar. Go .2 miles to HWY 92.

Description: Great views of the West Elks. Paved and gravel roads. Instead of turning right onto 7745 Rd. you can stay on Black Canyon to get to the Canyon itself.

Trail: German Creek Loop

Approx. Mileage: Roughly 5 miles

Route: Start in Paonia and from 2nd St. and Colorado take Colorado Ave. south. After .3 mi. it will become Minnesota Creek Rd. Go .6 mi. and turn right on Dry Gulch Rd. Ride .8 mi. and veer right onto Foothills Rd. Go 2.2 mi. (Foothills Rd becomes Lamborn Mesa) until you come to 4100 Rd. turn right. Go north for a mile; Lamborn Mesa will take you to 2nd St.

Description: Colorado Ave is a hard-packed dirt road. You’II be riding in the shadows of Mt. Lamborn. Paved and gravel roads.

Trail: Needle Rock Mini Loop

Approx. Mileage: 7.6 miles

Route: Start at Crawford’s post office on HWY 92 and Dogwood. Go east on Dogwood for .1 mile. It will turn into Needle Rock Rd. Go 2.2 miles and go straight onto 4200 Rd. Go .5 miles. Turn right on Cottonwood Creek Rd. Go 1 mile and turn right right on 4300 Ln. Go .3 miles and turn right onto Needle Rock Rd. Go 1.1 miles and turn left to stay on Needle Rock. Go 2.4 miles to return to the post office.

Description: Loops around Needle Rock. Pretty much gravel road.

Trail: Needle Rock Road Rally

Approx. Mileage: 11.7 miles

Route: Start at Crawford’s post office on HWY 92 and head west/north. Go 1.4 miles and turn right onto Crawford Rd. Go 3 miles and turn right onto Cottonwood Creek Rd. Go 2.4 miles and turn right onto 4200 Rd. Go .5 miles and go straight on Needle Rock Rd. Go 2.4 miles to return to the post office.

Description: Takes you through the adobes. Nice view of the West Elks. Some stretches of gravel road. Can extend the ride by taking the Mini Loop described above.

Trail: North Fork Ramble

Approx. Mileage: Over 17 miles

Route: Start in Hotchkiss at the HWY 92 and 133 split. Stay on 92 and go 1 mile. Turn left on Back River Rd. Go 6.5 miles and stay straight when Back River becomes Stewart Mesa Rd. After approximately a mile, turn right onto Crawford Rd. Go approximately 5 miles and turn right onto Fobare Rd. Go .8 miles and turn right onto HWY 92. Go 3.4 miles to return to Hotchkiss.

Description: All paved roads. Valley and adobe views.

Trail: Pitkin Mesa Loop

Approx. Mileage: 3 miles

Route: Start in Paonia and ride west on 3rd St. from Grand Ave. and go . 7 mi. Cross HWY 133 and get to Pitkin Rd. Go .1 mi. and turn right to stay on Pitkin. Go .4 mi. and turn right onto Panorama. Go 1 mi. and turn right on HWY 133 and ride .1 mi. and left onto Samuel Wade/3rd and return to Paonia.

Description: All paved roads. Short trip.

Trail: Powell Mesa Ride

Approx. Mileage: 5.9 miles

Route: In Hotchkiss, start at the Fairgrounds and go north for 1.1 miles on 4th St., which becomes Hanson Mesa Rd. after crossing the tracks. Veer left onto Powell Mesa Rd. and go 3.5 miles (keep right once you see a sign for Wolf Pack Rd.) back to Hanson Mesa. On Hanson Mesa go 1.3 mites to return to the Fairgrounds.

Description: Loops around Powell Mesa above Hotchkiss. Paved and gravel roads.

Trail: Scenic Mesa Route

Approx. Mileage: 13.8 miles

Route: In Hotchkiss start at Hotchkiss Ave and 3400 Rd. Head south on 3400 Rd. for 1.5 miles. Turn right on Scenic Mesa Rd. Go 6.3 miles and turn left at 3400 Rd. Go 6 miles on 3400 Rd back to Hotchkiss.

Description: Practically all gravel. Swings through the Scenic Mesa with great views of the West Elks and Grand Mesa.

Trail: Smith Fork Loop

Approx. Mileage: 19.8 miles

Route: Start at Crawford’s post office on HWY 92 and head west/north. Go 2.9 miles and turn left onto Grandview Mesa Rd. Go 1.6 miles and turn left to stay on Grandview Mesa. Go 2.1 miles and turn left onto Fruitland Mesa Rd. Go 3.3 miles (steep decline and incline on narrow gravel road) to a T. Turn left to continue on Fruitland Mesa for 9.7 miles. Turn right onto Cedar and go .2 miles to HWY 92.

Description: Pretty much gravel road. Loops around the Fruitland Mesa. Bring your own water.

Trail: Three Mesa Ride

Approx. Mileage: Around 8.5 miles

Route: In Paonia on 2nd and Onarga, take Onarga south. Once you cross the tracks, Onarga becomes Lamborn Mesa and then 4100 Rd. after going .9 mi. Go another .9 mi. and turn right onto Stewart Mesa Rd. Continue .4 mi. and turn left and then another .4 mi. Stewart Mesa becomes 4050 Rd. Go a mile and turn right on L75 Rd. Ride 1.1 mi. and turn right onto Crawford Rd. Take it 1.8 mi. to the end and turn right onto Mathews Lane. After 1.8 mi. you’ll be on 1st St. in Paonia. Go another .2 mi. to get to 1st and Grand.

Description: You will travel through Lamborn, Bone and Stewart Mesas. Paved and gravel roads.

Camping

Campground and RV Camping

Group and Dispersed Camping

The 2 State Parks, Paonia and Crawford, also offer camping.

Fishing

Lake and Pond Fishing

Areas for Lake and Pond Fishing at North Fork Valley – Paonia District:

River and Stream Fishing

Areas for River and Stream Fishing at North Fork Valley – Paonia District:

Contact Pleasure Park for fly fishing opportunities!

Colorado Parks & Wildlife web site has has complete information regarding fishing in Colorado.

The following advice is from an individual named Big Fish:

I’ve always thought how lucky we fisher-people are here in the North Fork to have so many fishing options available within an easy drive. Just south of Hotchkiss is the adobe area that opens up into the North Fork and Gunnison rivers. The rolling hills in the adobes give good access to the large rivers, with beautiful cottonwood campgrounds along the south side of the Gunnison.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try a jet-boat or rafting trip up the North Fork of the Gunnison, and get a whole day of scenic beauty and gold medal fishing while a knowledgeable guide handles the boat for you. The Gunnison River Pleasure Park will be happy to arrange a guided trip for you. The guides will also be able to let you know what hatches arc coming up and will help fill in any gaps you may have in your tackle box.

A short drive northwest takes you to a totally different world on Grand Mesa, with numerous lakes that are filled with cold-water fish, including brown, rainbow and brook trout. The fish tend to migrate on Grand Mesa, and in different years some lakes will produce an abundance of fish, while in other years they produce fewer. The hiking between the lakes in the tall pines is wonderful, and if you’re lucky you might come across a less-traveled reservoir in the back country that might produce a nice 3 or 4 pound trout. I’ve caught brookies of this size, and they’re quite a sight with their vividly colored spots.

To the west, we have the National Forest land along Leroux Creek, which offers a half-dozen or so reservoirs to fish. Depending on your inclination, you can go as deep into the National Forest as you like, and fish in places where you will see few humans. You may, however, see deer, moose, coyotes, and large birds of prey. The creeks in that area produce amazing little brook trout, and I’ve had fun crouching over small finger creeks luring pan-size trout out of the water.

TroutAt the east end of the valley up Kebler Pass are the beautiful Lost Lake camp sites, which were recently spruced up. There are three separate lakes to fish there. Lost Lake Slough is the first lake next to the campgrounds. It’s a great place to launch a canoe and catch dinner. By biking an easy three mile loop, you can also access Dollar Lake and Lost Lake. The whole area is beautiful, but Lost Lake is particularly spectacular in its clarity. You can see every submerged log and watch the fish as they take your lure or fly. The area is also a good spot to bunt mushrooms in the early fall.

If you’re interested in pike fishing, you can head to Crawford Reservoir, just outside the town of Crawford. In just the past year, this reservoir has produced some very large and heavy pike. It’s also good for crappie and catfish, and some rainbows and brown trout can also be caught there from time to time.

As you work your way farther southeast of the North Fork Valley toward Blue Mesa Reservoir, you come to the beautiful Curecanti Recreation area, which has camping, hiking, and fishing along both upper and lower Curecanti Creek. If there is anything you need while heading out to fish, you can always find a friendly smile and helpful directions or advice in any of the North Fork towns. Weekender Sports in Hotchkiss has knowledgeable staff that can help you with any of your outdoor needs. In Crawford, the Bait Box-n-More has groceries, fishing gear, and friendly advice. Whether you like to wade, walk along the shore of a stream, boat in a large reservoir, or raft a river, the North Fork has the means to supply your fishing needs, so grab the family, a pole and your gear, and head to the North Fork for a day, a week, a lifetime!

Hunting

whitetail deer

Colorado Parks & Wildlife website for hunting is a great resource of information including regulations and seasons.

Hunting Resources

Colorado Division of Wildlife 970-872-2175 or 970-527-4419
US Forest Service 970-527-4161 or 970-874-6600
National Park Service 970-249-1915
Bureau of Land Management 970-240-5300
Curecanti National Recreation Area 970-249-8552
Colorado Outfitters Association 970-824-2468
Crawford Country Gunsmithing 970-921-3630
Crawford Country Store (licenses & supplies) 970-921-5040
Desparado (licenses & supplies) 970-921-5655
Gunnison River Expeditions (fishing & hunting) 970-874-8184
Gunnison River Pleasure Park (licenses & supplies) 970-872-2525
Lasting Impressions (maps & supplies) 970-527-3211
Little River Meats (meat processing) 970-921-6211
Pack Shack (shipping processed meat) 970-872-5555
Paonia Farm & Home Supply (licenses & supplies) 970-527-3301
Stengel Gun Shop 970-872-3748
The Buck Stop (taxidermy) 970-921-5334
Weedender Sports (licenses & supplies) 970-872-3444
Western Slope Bird Taxidermy 970-872-1986

Outfitters

Sawbuck Outfitters, Crawford 970-921-3557
Commander and Company, Somerset 970-929-6202
Bar Diamond Ranch/Ferrier Outfitter, Hotchkiss 970-527-3010
Hansen Cattle Ranch, Inc/Tabeguache, Crawford 970-921-4444
Buglin’ Bill’s, Crawford 970-921-3877
Hubbard Creek, Hotchkiss 970-872-3818
Bar ZX Ranch & Lodge, Somerset 970-929-6591
Bull Mountain Outfitting, Somerset 970-929-6161

Hiking

The North Fork area offers an abundance of hiking trails. Here’s a slideshow video of the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area Ute Trail:

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Big enough to he overwhelming but still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years in the making, the Gunnison River, together with the forces of weathering, have sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water and sky.

Your best option for directions to the park is to head south on Highway 92 from Crawford and stop at the Crawford State Park Ranger Station. You’ll find all kinds of information and some of the friendliest folks around to answer your questions.

North Rim Hiking Trails Chasm View

Nature Trail Moderate – 1/3 mile round trip

This trail is located at the end of the one-way campground loop. After a short distance, the trail breaks out of the pinon, juniper forest at the North Chasm View, some 1800 feet above the river. Continuing near the rim, the trail reaches a second overlook with excellent views of Painted Wall and Serpent Point. Keep a lookout for swifts, swallows and raptors frequently seen from this overlook. The people you can see on the far side, at Chasm View overlook are only 1,100 feet away.

North Vista Trail

Moderate to Exclamation Point – 3 miles round trip

Strenuous to Green Mountain – 7 miles round trip

Constructed by volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the North Vista Trail offers some of the best scenic views and birding in the Park.

Start this trail at the North Rim Ranger Station. After passing through an area of sage and oak brush, the trail meanders in a pinon/juniper forest along the canyon’s rim. Several overlooks offer views of SOB draw and the inner canyon. At Exclamation Point some of the best inner-canyon views can be found. Those continuing to Green Mountain will be rewarded with panoramic vistas including the San Juan Mountains, the West Elks, Grand Mesa, the Uncompahgre Plateau and an aerial perspective of the Black Canyon.

Deadhorse Trail

Easy to moderate – 5 miles round trip

This trail offers good views of Deadhorse gulch and East Portal on the Gunnison River, as well as good birding.

Park at the Kneeling Camel Overlook and walk a few yards east to a spur road that leads to the old Ranger Station. The trail, actually an old service road, begins here. After 3/4 of a mile the road passes a stock pond. This pond is fed by one of the few springs found on the rim of the Black Canyon. Continue on another 1 1/2 miles until you encounter a stock fence. Turn right (south) here and walk 1/4 mile along the fence until you come to the canyon’s rim. Deadhorse Gulch is the large side drainage located just east of the overlook (and the fence).

Areas for Day Hiking in the North Fork Valley:

Raggeds

You can visit the Forest Service’s site for backpacking and day hiking.

Pool

North Fork Pool, Park & Recreation District

The North Fork Swimming Pool is located south of Hotchkiss at 333 Bulldog Lane. It is open from Memorial Day through Labor  Day, and includes a children’s wading pool, therapy pool and picnic area.

Visit the North Fork Recreation site for more info.

Horse Riding

Horses

The best place for horse riding is around the Kebler Pass area. The US Forest Service site has a description for Horse Ranch Park. The Forest Service also recommends using Dark Canyon Trail. Here’s the brochure for that trail:

Dark Canyon Trail Brochure

Hubbard Creek Outfitters has summer horse riding opportunities too!

OHV Riding

Colorado’s off-roading motto is “Stay the Trail.” Thanks to vast amounts of diverse, thrilling trail terrain, that motto doesn’t limit the fun you can have exploring the backcountry on a Jeep tour, ATV or other off-highway vehicle (OHV).

Keeping our trails and wilderness areas in good shape ensures generations to come will enjoy them as much as the current one. A few things to keep in mind when riding in Colorado:

  • Ride only on routes wider than your vehicle to preserve the trail and keep it challenging for riders who come after you.
  • Ride over obstacles, not around them. Going around widens the trail and impacts vegetation.
  • Colorado has a noise limit for OHVs. Keeping your vehicle’s noise level down, which can be done without losing any power, keeping complaints at bay — and trails open.

Areas for OHV Trail Riding at North Fork Valley:

West Elk Loop - Scenic and Historic Byway

scenic-byway-logoThe twin summits of Mount Sopris and the incomparable Black Canyon of the Gunnison anchor the ends of the West Elk Loop. This magnificent landscape has been home to uncounted generations of Native Americans, most recently the Utes. White settlers originally came in search of minerals and stayed to farm and ranch. The coke ovens at Redstone bear witness to the toil that built the communities of today. Carbondale, Hotchkiss, Crawford, Gunnison, Crested Butte, and other towns offer a slice of Colorado’s rich history, varied lifestyles, and natural beauty. The route gives access to the White River and Gunnison National Forests, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Curecanti National Recreational Area, and Crawford and Paonia State Parks.

For more information, visit the West Elk Loop web site.

Map

West-Elk-Loop-map

Winter Sports

Winter time offers a number of activities such as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Downhill Skiing

PowderhornDeep in the heart of the world’s largest flat top mountain, the Grand Mesa, Powderhorn will elevate your expectations. Breathtaking views, over 1600 acres of beautiful mountain terrain, virtually all lodging right on the slopes and a stress free, relaxing experience await at this best kept secret you can call your own and it’s just about an hour’s drive from the North fork. A little something for everyone including terrain parks built using natural features and a tubing hill.

Contact: Powderhorn Resort, 48338 Powderhorn Road, Mesa, CO 81643, 970-268-5700, www.powderhorn.com

Base elevation: 8,200 ft

Summit Elevation: 9,860 ft

Vertical Drop: 1,650 ft

Permitted acres: 1,600

Groomed acres: 600

Average Snowfall: 250″

Lifts: 4

1 Quad, 2 Doubles, 1 Surface

20% Beginner

50% Intermediate

30% Advanced/Expert

Cross Country Skiing

The Grand Mesa is located in western Colorado and is the world’s largest flat top mountain with more than 300 lakes and an elevation over 10,000 feet.

Winter Grand MesaThe Grand Mesa Nordic Council is a community-based nonprofit organization of people who love to cross-country ski. They are dedicated to promoting fun, safe, diversified cross-country skiing experiences on the Grand Mesa for skiers of all ages, abilities, and interests. The Council grooms 54 kilometers (32.4 miles) of trails on the Mesa. You’ll find three trail systems at three trailheads on the Mesa: Skyway, County Line and Ward Creek. You’ ll also find several back country trails. There are no fees for skiing the trails of the Grand Mesa, however the Grand Mesa Nordic Council is funded by membership fees, business sponsors, fundraising events and grants so they’ll gladly accept donations.

Programs offered by the Council include Private and Semi-Private Adult Ski Lessons and Women’s Ski Clinics. The Grand Mesa Gliders, a kids program, is dedicated to instructing youth in the various disciplines of cross-country skiing and backcountry safety and fostering the life-long enjoyment of cross-country skiing.

On a local level, the Skis for Kids program makes cross-country skiing affordable and available to all youth in our community by providing ski equipment for kids.

Contact:

Grand Mesa Nordic Council

PO Box 266

Cory, CO 81414

www.gmnc.org

Here are some more trails for skiing and snowshoeing:

Snowmobiling

The folks on the Western Slope don’t hibernate. No – pickup trucks, RV’s, ATV’s and SUV’s are traded for tracks, skis and 2-stroke engines. Snowmobiling is a great family activity and a way to view our spectacular scenery in its winter coat. Whether for a day visit or an overnight lodge stay (psst, check out the Electric Mountain Lodge just north of Paonia), snowmobiling is one of our more popular winter sports. If you’re headed out, stop by Weekender Sports and ask the local experts about rentals, equipment and snow conditions.

Snowmobiling Grand Mesa

Winter Grand MesaSnowmobile near Grand Mesa, the largest flat-top mountain in the world, and you’ re sure to have a good time. With roughly 800 square miles of trails and an average of 35 feet of snowfall a year, the area is a snowmobiler’s paradise. To access the trails, just take Hwy I 33 to Hwy 92 and head west toward Delta. Turn north on Hwy 65, drive through Cedaredge and onto Grand Mesa.

Most of Grand Mesa’s trails are at 9,000 feet or above and regularly groomed. The main section of trail is called the “SP” for “Sunlight to Powderhorn.” This system consists of a single 120 mile route marked from Powderhorn Ski Area on Grand Mesa to Sunlight Ski Area on the White River National Forest (near Glenwood Springs) with an additional 180 miles of associated trails. Difficulty varies and trail use is heavy with a combination of Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobile use.

Snowmobiling the Gunnison National Forest

No two-ways about it, snowmobiling in south central Colorado offers spectacular scenery and views.

Located in Gunnison National Forest, the trails are just north east of Montrose, close to the small mountain towns of Crawford and Paonia. All of the trails are groomed and maintained by the Delta Snowmobile Club, which makes for easy riding. Thrill-seekers, however, have plenty of opportunities to venture into hilly, ungroomed territory or play in some of the trails’ meadows. Keep an eye out for anything unusual though, according to the Forest Service, Anasazi Indian ruins are still occasionally found in the area.

To access the Kebler Pass Trailhead, follow State Road 133 fifteen miles east of Paonia to County Road 12. Take County Road 12 south for twelve miles until you reach the trailhead.

The North Fork Trailhead can be reached by taking Forest Service Road 12, also known as North Smith Fork Road, for 10 miles east of Crawford.

The Black Mesa Trails are located just south and east of Crawford. To get to the County Road 713 trailhead, turn onto County Road 713 from Highway 92, about ten miles south of Crawford. Travel east for 2.5 miles until you reach parking. The Highway 92 trailhead is at the intersection of Highway 92 at County Road 84, about 20 miles south of Crawford.

Parks

Paonia River Park

River-Park-three-1024x547

Thanks to the members, volunteers, and staff of the Conservation Center, what was once an in-stream gravel pit in the North Fork of the Gunnison River is now a public park with restored river banks, picnic areas, and hiking trails.

Black Canyon National Park

Deep, Steep and Narrow

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water and sky.

Paonia State Park

Plunge deep into nature at Paonia State Park, a narrow lake park.  Steep mountainsides, pristine water, alpine scenery and peaceful environment make Paonia a haven for water and nature lovers.

Camp near a babbling stream, water-ski on a mountain reservoir, have a picnic, observe wildlife, all in view of the majestic Ragged Mountains. The park’s natural beauty and abundance of wildflowers make it a “must see” for photographers and nature lovers.

Crawford State Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is close by, so it’s easy to imagine the inspiring scenery found here. Crawford State Park invites anglers, boaters, hikers and water sports enthusiasts to the western slope, for one day or several.

Jet skiing, motor boating and water skiing are very popular action-oriented activities at peak times like summer weekends. The park is quiet and restful during the week and lower peak times.

A nice retreat for outdoor recreation, groups are welcome to gather and enjoy the group picnic facility. Crawford is great place to take a break and enjoy great recreation and stunning scenery.

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