Montrose, CO

Electric Hills mountain bike trails are set to open in Montrose

Morgan Tilton

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A mountain biker rides the newly constructed trails at the Electric Hills Trail System in Montrose.(Montrose Uncompahgre Trails.)

A new trail network purpose-built for mountain bikers is underway outside Montrose, 297 miles southwest of the Mile High City and 71 miles south of Fruita's well-loved singletrack.

"The local riding community in Montrose has always had to travel to other places to ride good trails despite the fact that we're surrounded by a whole bunch of public land—we're land rich and trail poor," said Garry Baker, secretary of the Montrose Uncompahgre Trails (MUT) chapter of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA), a nonprofit of volunteer mountain bikers that build, maintain, and advocate for sustainable trails in Western Colorado.

Baker is the project manager for the recently approved Electric Hills trail system. He drafted the trail development plan and wrote the recently received Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant for $242,000, covering a significant portion of the 2022 trail construction.

The local MUT chapter first started discussing how to develop a top-notch trail system in their backyard, especially a hub that could offer intermediate and advanced segments, in 2014.

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To date, dozens of trail building volunteers have helped to construct the Electric Hills trail system.(Montrose Uncompahgre Trails)

Growing a larger trail network

Founded in 1989, COPMOBA's first trail project was building and mapping out the famed 142-mile Kokopelli Trail from Fruita to Moab, Utah. The organization comprises four chapters, including Delta Area Mountain Bikers, Grand Valley Canyons, and Ridgway Area Trails.

To the south, the Ridgway Area Trails are flowy and rock-free. The trails in Fruita and Grand Junction, like Lunch Loop Bike Park, offer technicality.

Montrose is home to the Buzzard Gulch Trails, "which is mostly made of old roads that were a starter trail system. Buzzard Gulch fills a niche with nearly all beginner-level and relatively short trails with nine miles total," explained Baker.

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Trail building volunteers help to dig out singletrack for the new Electric Hills trail system.(Montrose Uncompahgre Trails)

Electric Hills trail system

Surrounded by pinyon-juniper woodlands, the Electric Hills singletrack will blanket slopes of desert rimrock and shallow canyons at the mouth of the Uncompahgre Plateau, 8 miles southwest of downtown.

Appealing to local input, the 17-mile Electric Hills trail web will be tailored to intermediate and advanced riders, delivering flowy routes and technical features.

"There's a lot of sandstone and the trail system makes use of that with technical moves, slabs here and there, and steps," said Baker.

Sitting at 6,300 feet, the mesa rim rises 300 feet above the trailhead. There are sandy sections, too. The runoff creates small waterfalls and several creek crossings in spring, where bridges will be built.

The trails, dedicated to non-motorized travel, are optimized for mountain biking but will be multi-use for hikers, trail runners, and equestrians. Dogs are also welcome.

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A preliminary Electric Hills trail map.(Montrose Uncompahgre Trails)

Construction is underway

Seven trail miles are complete, though only a sliver is ridable and open to the public. Opened this week, Flux Capacitor is a challenging .7-mile segment.

Sections will continue to open on a rolling basis and will be viewable on MTB Project. The contract stipulates that the trails need to be complete by the end of 2023, but the construction is on pace to finish by the middle of next year, noted Baker.

Volunteer power will build five trail miles, and professionals will construct the remaining 12 miles.

The trailhead marks the east side of Rimrocker trail, a 160-mile motorized route for off-highway vehicles. There's a gravel parking lot and sign. MUT would like to add improvements, including a fence and bathroom, although the construction plan and timeline haven't been determined, said Baker.

To date, organizers have collected nearly $350,000 in donations for the project, including a $10,000 grant from Athletic Brewing Company. Montrose County, Montrose Recreation District, Bureau of Land Management, and various donors, pooled resources. "It definitely takes a village to make something like this happen," said Baker.

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A mountain biker riding a technical section of the Electric Hills trails with great views.(Alicia Plantz and Plantz Productions courtesy Montrose Uncompahgre Trails)

When to go

Once the trails are complete, the trail will be open for public use from April 16 to November 30 each year. A big game habitat closure protects the area for wintering wildlife because deer and elk from the top of the plateau retreat to lower elevations after snowfalls.

When you go, be sure to bring your water, dog waste bags, and WAG bags (until a bathroom is built).

Follow the MUT Facebook group for announcements regarding volunteer trail building days, which are open to the public and newly opened trail segments. Otherwise, the best way to support the Electric Hills trail construction is to join or make a donation to COPMOBA.

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Adventure journalist Morgan Tilton covers the outdoors with a focus on travel, industry news and human endurance. Featured in more than 70 publications, she’s a recipient of more than a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards.

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