Tabeguache 4×4 Trail
In 1990 the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association built, developed, mapped and opened the 142 mile Tabeguache (pronounced: ‘tab-a-watch’) Trail from Montrose to Grand Junction. On June 6, 2009 I set out to map a 4×4 route of the Tabeguache Trail.
Here’s a short history about The Tabeguache provided by COPMBA:
For centuries before the arrival of Europeans, the area that is now western Colorado was inhibited by native peoples. These people called themselves “Nunt’z”. We call them Utes.
The Utes were nomadic, moving from camp to camp to exploit nearby food sources. They were some of the first Native Americans to acquire the horse, and become superb horsemen. The Tabeguache Utes inhibited the Uncompahgre Plateau.
The modern spelling is from a word coined by the explorer Escalante in 1776. The meaning of Tabeguache is “place where the snow melts first”. The Tabeguache Utes were removed from the Uncompahgre Plateau by the United States Government in 1881 to a reservation in Northeast Utah.
Evidence of mans presence on the Uncompahgre Plateau dates back over 10,000 years. Over the last 100 years, the Uncompahgre Plateau has been the scene of vast cattle grazing, sheepherding, mining & lumber ventures. The landscape is dotted with evidence of these past and present uses. Help preserve historic and prehistoric resources by not disturbing them.
First off, let me point out that the routing of the Tabeguache 4×4 Trail is still a work in progress. While I have a pretty good solid route mapped out currently, there are a few sections that I need to do some further scouting on to see if there are better options to get closer to following the Tabeguache bike trail as closely as possible.
I drove this route starting in Montrose and ending in Grand Junction, however it can be traveled in either direction. I will shortly describe the route in sections starting in Shavano Valley. All sections with an * are optional and can be added to the main route to travel more of the official route and to extend the trip. Much of the bike trail is signed with markers approximately every mile and at important intersections, but there were a number of broken and missing signs along the way.
Starting out at the trailhead in Shavano Valley you start out by following the easy Rim Road until you reach the turnoff for Dry Creek. Here you will pass through a gate (close it behind you) and start the descent to Dry Creek. The road gets a little rougher here. Once at the bottom of the valley the Tabeguache will split off from the main road to the left. While this section looks like a Jeep road, it will dead end at a narrow bridge that no Jeep will be able to cross. Follow the road to the Dry Creek ford and cross there. The Tabeguache will join back up with the road after the crossing.
Crossing Dry Creek will start you on the way up Cushman Mesa. This is the route that I traveled my first trip as it follows the Tabeguache bike trail. However, once on top of the mesa where the trail enters the Uncompahgre National Forest it becomes an ATV only trail open to vehicles less than 50″ wide. I was hoping that I would be able to take another route to connect to Transfer Road, but ended up running into a locked gate at some private property. The only route to Transfer Road was to loop back on Cushman Mesa Road all the way back to Dry Creek again.
There is supposed to be a road that continues on along Dry Creek to Transfer Road from where I descended to Dry Creek. If this is the case, I think making this road part of the official 4×4 route and making the Cushman Mesa loop optional would be a good idea. I will not do this until I can verify that the Dry Creek Road is drivable in a 4×4.
This section included some of the most challenging terrain of the whole trail, so if you are looking for a little challenge, you might want to take this loop. There are also some great camping spots located along this loop higher up on the mesa.
After ascending out of the Dry Creek drainage near the power lines you will meet up with Transfer Road. Take a left and follow this maintained road into the Uncompahgre National Forest and take a right when you reach Divide Road.
This section is easy and quick, and you will meet up with the Tabeguache Bike Trail shortly after entering the National Forest, but the bike route will turn off to the right before you reach Divide Road.
Follow Divide Road along the top of the Uncompahgre Plateau to Columbine Pass and the Delta-Nucla Road intersection. This is another easy section of maintained road that parallels the Tabeguache bike route which is to the east.
* There are a few more trails along this section that head off towards the bike route from Divide Road that I need to get back and drive so I can see if they might make a better route. I do know that the final stretch to the Delta-Nucla Road is singletrack and will need to be bypassed with Divide Road.
Long Creek Loop*
I found this optional loop when I was trying to get back onto the Tabeguache bike trail instead of following Divide Road. According to my Forest Service map, the singletrack portion of the trail turned back into a road at Fenceline Road. After following Fenceline Road to the bike trail and turning onto it, I was only able to drive it for a few hundred feet before it turned into an ATV trail again. Luckily this happened at the Long Creek Road intersection, so I was able to follow that road out instead of backtracking. I am including this section as an optional loop in the track.
Hang a right onto the Delta-Nucla Road and follow this well maintained road to join up with the Tabeguache bike route yet again. From this point on we will be able to follow the official route all the way to Colorado Highway 141 just outside of Whitewater.
Take a left onto Cottonwood Road and follow another maintained road. There are a few turns that you need to make throughout this section, but this section of the trail was well marked with signs at all of the important intersections. The last road on this section that will take you back to Divide Road is a little rougher and not maintained, but easy for any high clearance vehicle. I passed a bunch of great campsites along this part of the trail.
Central Divide Road
This section brings you back to the well maintained Divide Road. This section offers some great views towards the La Sal Mountains to the west. Plus there are a number of side roads that lead to campsites.
A right hand turn from Divide Road will start you on your way towards Dominguez Canyon. This is a great section that starts out as wide rolling meadows covered with sage and wildflowers and then a crossing of Dominguez Creek. As you continue you can watch the creek enter into a small canyon that transforms into a much larger canyon. You will eventually descend steeply into Dominguez Canyon and cross the creek again. At this crossing you will come across the first and only developed campground on this trip. After climbing out of the canyon on the other side you will shortly take a right and make your way towards Cactus Park.
This section of the trail heads towards East Creek through Cactus Park and parallels the canyon until it ends at CO Highway 141. There are some side roads throughout this area, but the intersections are signed well. The bike trail continues across the highway, but it is not open to motorized vehicles. From here we have to hop onto the highway and take a right towards Whitewater.
* I have received some credible information that possibly as early as next spring, the BLM will be completing a new section of road that will allow motorized access to the Bangs Canyon portion of the trail from Highway 141. I will try to keep up to date on this progress and as soon as this section opens I will drive it and update this information.
Old Whitewater Road
I added this short section of road to the route to help keep off the pavement as much as possible before heading into town on US Highway 50. Take a left turn after crossing the Gunnison River and the railroad tracks and follow this road past the Old Spanish Trail to eventually meet up with US 50.
Take a left onto US 50 and head into Grand Junction. Cross the Colorado River and take the off-ramp to the Riverside Parkway. Follow the Parkway to West and take another left, followed by a right onto CO Highway 340. Take one more left at the first stoplight and follow Monument Road to the official Tabeguache trailhead in Grand Junction to finish the route. There is a Western Convenience gas station at the Monument Road intersection if you need to fill up; they usually have the lowest price in town.
Bangs Canyon Spur*
If you are interested in driving more of the Tabeguache bike trail after making it to Grand Junction, you can take the Bangs Canyon section out and back. Because this section has no motorized access to highway 141 it is a dead end spur and you have to return the way you came. This is probably the roughest section of the entire Tabeguache 4×4 Trail, and is slow going most of the way.
*I have driven much of this route, but not all of it. The current track only goes as far as I have been. I do not know the condition of the road beyond this point. I can tell you that once past Rough Canyon the trail is not very well traveled by full sized vehicles. There are a few sections that are narrow and off-camber.
Colorado National Monument*
After completing the Tabeguache 4×4 route, if you would like to connect up with the Kokopelli trailhead in Loma, I would suggest continuing on down Monument Road and entering the Colorado National Monument. Here you can follow the main road through the park and exit the park near Fruita. Even though this section is all paved, it is a very scenic drive with a number of great overlooks and hiking trails. You will need to pay admission to enter the park.
This is the preferred route to connect the Tabeguache and the Kokopelli to complete the Grand Loop.
GPS Tracks for the Tabeguache 4×4 Trail
Google Earth Track (Version 1)
GPX Track (Version 1)
For the most detailed version of the trail with additional information and notes from me, download the Google Earth file and open it in Google Earth. The GPX file includes the sections of the trail that I have driven and a few waypoints.
Maps I used to plan the route
Further resources to help plan your trip
Photo Galleries from the Tabeguache 4×4 Trail
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments about the Tabeguache 4×4 Trail, please feel free to post them below.
This page was last updated on: 12/19/2009