In 2018, I rode my mountain bike 14 times during the month of April totaling about 160 miles, a great deal of them at Hartman Rocks. This year was an entirely different story. We had a decent snow year at the ski area followed by an extremely snowy spring here in the Gunnison Valley. That has been good for the rivers and reservoirs and bodes well for lots of wildflowers and few wildfires here this summer. But, when Hartman Rocks opened up for the season on April 25, locals were ready to hit the trails in droves.
I held off one weekend because I heard it was muddy and still snowy in places, but I made it out the following weekend to work out the kinks on a mellow, early-season loop that would be great for beginners or families. It was glorious. Given what I heard about the muddy conditions the previous weekend, I think I made a good choice in holding off one week. The trails we explored were dry and in perfect condition. Even though the parking lot was jam-packed, the trails were relatively lonely when we got out there, with just enough other folks on the trails to ensure you encountered a few friends along the way.
We parked at the base area and climbed Jacks. Every time I do that for the first time in a season, I’m reminded that it’s neither hard nor particularly easy. It only climbs 266 vertical feet and it’s a pleasant 6% grade, but it is an abrupt way to start a ride and it ends with a mildly technical rock move that I still only get on my first try about 50% of the time.
Then we took the roads over to Rocky Ridge. From there, it was a pleasant climb to the high point where we ran into a few Crested Buttians, including Ali of Big Al’s Bike Shop, and had to snag a photo of us all in our matching Shredly shorts. From the high point, we descended the more technical rocky section to the “five-way” and headed for a quick spin on Evan’s Loop. Sea of Sage to Broken Shovel is probably the best loop in the Valley for beginning mountain bikers looking for a mellow, fun ride.
From there, we picked up Luge and took it to the end. Luge is great when you have a tailwind, but is decidedly less fun with you have a headwind like we did that day. It was still biking though and the whoops and jumps at the end offered an opportunity to catch a little air if you pumped your bike at the right moment. As it was starting to sprinkle on us a little, we climbed back up to Becks on the road and finished with that old favorite to Collarbone, skipping the Notch. If you’re looking for a more technical descent, the Notch is a new favorite I rode for the first time last year. The only downside is you have to skip the top half of Collarbone. If you like riding steep, technical rock features, I recommend checking out the Notch at least once. You may want to go with a buddy who knows the trail your first time because some of the moves are high consequence if you don’t know the sneak arounds.
All in all, it was a great day on singletrack at one of my favorite places to ride in the Gunnison Valley. As of today, May 15, 2019, the trails south of Powerline Road are open for the season. If you haven’t ticked Aberdeen off your TrailQuest list, go get after it. Best of luck to everyone racing the Growler this year. It’s coming up quickly!