One-way Distance: 17.3 miles
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 4676 - 7283 feet
Elevation gain: 2,770
Elevation loss: 4,222
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Bangs Canyon Staging Area
Attractions: Epic downhill, scenic canyons
Tabeguache (TAB-a-watch) is a 150 mile long trail that has one end in Grand Junction, Colorado and the other end in Montrose. This post covers the section of the trail that runs between the Bangs Canyon Staging Area, off of Little Park Road, near Grand Junction, to where it crosses Highway 141 west of Whitewater.
The trailhead at the Bangs Canyon Staging Area is about 8 miles from the intersection of 3rd and Main St. in downtown Grand Junction. The Tabeguache trail departs the staging area near the restroom in the southwest corner of the parking lot.
The entire length of this section of the Tabeguache trail is a road that is open to everything from hiking to mountain biking to jeeps and ATV's. At the time of this post the last quarter mile or so of the trail right before Highway 141 was still being rerouted to extend the 4x4 road all the way down to the pavement.
The profile of this section of the trail illustrates what to expect in the way of elevation changes. The trail begins with a gradual ascent over the course of the first half mile which is followed by a memorable 1.6 mile downhill run over mostly slickrock, losing over 800 feet of elevation, to the Ladder Creek crossing in Rough Canyon. From there the trail climbs steeply out of Rough Canyon until it reaches the high point of the Bangs Canyon section at the top of No Mas Hill where an epic 9 mile downhill run takes it all the way to Highway 141.
The trail splits into two routes when it reaches an OHV playground area just past the one mile point where one route is easier than the other. The playground has a bench with multiple places where jeeps and such can show off their rock crawling abilities.
Near the 2 mile point the lower end of the Rough Canyon trail makes a connection. A little further and the trail crosses the seasonal stream of Ladder Creek that flows out of Rough Canyon.
The trail climbs abruptly out of Rough Canyon where the hard packed dirt makes it a little easier at first.
Near the 2.5 mile point there is a pretty good overlook that you can walk over to and get a nice view of Rough Canyon Falls.
From here the trail can get pretty rocky in places making the climb a lot tougher to handle.
At the 3 mile point Hell's Hole branches off on the left.
The climb levels off a little after passing Hell's Hole but it picks up again a short distance later.
A nice red dirt track comes up around the 4 mile point with some stretches that are a bit flatter. Good time can be made through this stretch. There is a water trough that usually has some good water in it if you happen to be on horseback. During the spring and early summer you can usually count on streams flowing in Rough Canyon and the different branches of Bangs Canyon. Hiker, mountain bikers and everyone else should bring all the water that they are going to need with them.
The Windmill Road branches off near the 4.8 mile point. The Windmill Road and the Tabeguache trail up to this point are both part of the Magellan Loop. Good time can be made for the next little bit.
A downhill stretch comes up next. There is one spot that drops off steeply with lots of loose rocks on the trail that will slow things down a little.
There is another creek crossing near the 5.7 mile point that is followed by a 7 tenths of a mile stretch that crosses private land. The climbing begins again after crossing the creek where the elevation is right at 6300 feet. At the 6.7 mile point there is an intersection with an unmarked road. Rumor has it that this road leads all the way up to Glade Park but it comes to a locked gate before getting there. The elevation has climbed to 6612 feet at this point. The trail keeps climbing with some rough rocky spots before it descends a little to another creek crossing at the 7.77 mile point where the elevation is 6910 feet. After crossing the creek the trail makes its final climb to its highest point for this section of the Tabeguache trail to the top of No Mas Hill where the elevation is 7283 feet.. 'No Mas' is Spanish for 'no more' and is commonly used as a plea for something to stop. In this case it is referring to the seemingly unrelenting uphill climb. It takes a good set of legs to get up some of these rocky sections if you are mountain biking like we were.
An epic 9 mile descent begins at the top of No Mas. For the first mile or two a thick pinyon and juniper forest block out most distant views. Travel can be very fast with nothing but an occasional patch of loose rocks to slow things down.
The view opens up for the last 3 or 4 miles as the descent continues. There are a couple of short uphill spots where rocky outcrops come up. They are actually pretty nice for getting the blood flowing in your legs again.
A new section of double track was under construction at the time of this post to allow OHV's to be able to make it all the way out to Highway 141.