Tabeguache - Cactus Park Section

Rating: 
One-way Distance: 14.9 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 6221 - 7638 feet
Elevation gain: 2,140 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Cactus Park
Fee: none
Attractions: Elevated views




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 begins in Cactus Park where the Radio Towers Section ends and goes for almost 15 miles to the Dominguez Campground in the upper reaches of Dominguez Canyon.


To get to the point in Cactus Park where this post begins drive south out of Whitewater, Colorado and turn west onto Highway 141 towards Gateway. Follow Highway 141 for 8.4 miles to the Cactus Park turnoff which comes up left just before mile marker 145.


The road is a little rough after turning off of the highway. After that it varies depending upon current conditions. At the half mile point the road passes a staging area where there is a restroom and plenty of room for vehicles pulling trailers to park as well as ramps for off loading ATV's and such. Stay to the left at the 1 mile point and continue for another 1.2 miles to where the Radio Towers Section of the Tabeguache trail connects on the left. This is the beginning point for this post. There isn't a trailhead here but there is room for several vehicles to park.


The Tabeguache trail follows the road as it heads south through Cactus Park. Almost immediately it crosses a cattleguard. Stay to the right at the fork that comes up at the 1.68 mile point. At the time of this post that intersection was unmarked.


The next important fork in the road comes up at the 2 mile point where someone blasted the trail marker with a shotgun. If you happen to go to the left at this point you will come to a dead end after a mile and a half.


As the trail continues coursing through Cactus Park it comes to another fork at the 2.75 mile point where currently there is still a trail marker that indicates to stay left or continue straight ahead. Another staging area with a restroom comes up at the 3.25 mile point.


Right after passing the staging area the trail crosses a cattleguard and another road branches off on the right. The Tabeguache trail continues straight ahead where it begins climbing steeply for the next 3.8 miles, gaining over 900 feet of elevation, before is begins leveling off. This is a real grinder for mountain bikers. On the plus side there aren't any rock ledges or big rocks to deal with and most of the trail looks just like it does in this picture.


The elevation profile shows how the trail is laid out between Cactus Park and the Dominguez Campground. Going in this direction the elevation gain is 2,140 feet. If you turn around at the campground and return by the same route the total combined round trip elevation gain is 3,374 feet. If you begin at the campground and go to Cactus Park the elevation gain will be only 1,234 feet so obviously this section of the Tabeguache trail is easier going from south to north. Riding it round trip on a mountain bike, as we did for this post, was a lot of fun even if it was a big workout.


There is an overlook near the 5.25 mile point where there is a pretty good view of Cactus Park. Beyond that lies Grand Junction and the Little Book Cliffs.


As the trail continues climbing views to the south begin appearing. In the distance beyond the Montrose area the snow covered peaks of the San Juan Mountains, some of which tower above 14,000 feet, can be seen. The sky is a little hazy in this photo but it is still a nice view.


After the Cactus Park overlook the trail climbs above 7,300 feet several times only to briefly descend each time. At the 8.7 mile point the trail reaches 7,311 feet. From there it descends for the next 3/4 of a mile giving back almost 200 feet of elevation gain.


For the next 3.5 miles the trail makes a gentle climb that continues uninterrupted gaining 500 feet of elevation.


At the 13 mile point the Tabeguache trail meets the road that leads from the Divide Road to the Dominguez Campground. From here it is 2 more miles to the campground. One of the big signs at this intersection says that it is 2 miles to the Divide Road when in fact it is exactly 3 miles.


The road makes a dramatic descent as it enters Dominguez Canyon. Besides the beautiful views of the canyon the steep road is often one of the first things that people remember when they talk about it later.


The campground is located on the righthand side of the the Dominguez Road along both sides of Big Dominguez Creek. Each of the campsites are currently free on a first come basis and include both tables and firepits. Campers must haul off all of their own trash as there is understandably no trash service at this remote location. There are two restrooms in the area. One is in the campground on the south side of the creek and the other is at the Dominguez Canyon trailhead directly across the road from the campground.


We thought that we would end with a photo of a bighorn ewe with a couple of new lambs. There was another ewe present that is just outside of the photo that was probably the mother of one of the lambs. The picture was taken along Highway 141 in Unaweep Canyon. This portion of the Tabeguache trail is very remote and well planned preparations should be made in advance. With all the unmarked interconnecting roads and trails it is very important to carry a good map and if possible a GPS. We have included two maps that can be printed that should be helpful. The map on the right shows most of the other roads and trails. Flat tires are always a possibility so spare tires and tubes should also be considered. The only water available is from Dominguez Creek at the campground and a pipe alongside the road just before the campground. All water should be filtered before drinking any of it. The Cactus Park section of the Tabeguache trail is relatively easy to access and one of the easier sections to ride or drive because of the general smoothness of the road. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or favorite OHV toy and 'Take a hike'.