One-way Distance: 13.5 miles
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 7091 - 8960 feet
Elevation gain: 2,662 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Dominguez Campground
Attractions: 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 13. 5 mile section of the trail that runs between the Dominguez Campground in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area to Divide Road in the Uncompahgre National Forest.
To get to the Dominguez Campground drive west on Highway 141 from Whitewater for 13.6 miles. Turn left onto Divide Road and follow it for 5.7 miles to the sign in this picture. Turn left at this point and drive the remaining 5 miles to the campground. The Dominguez Road leading to the campground is generally passable by 2-wheel drive passenger vehicles in good weather.
Dominguez Campground is located along the creek down in Dominguez Canyon. The last bit of the road where it drops from the plateau into the canyon is well graveled and very steep. We had no trouble getting up and down it in our 2-wheel drive pickup. It is quite the aerobic workout though on a mountain bike.
From the trailhead follow the road as it crosses Big Dominguez Creek. This picture was taken in the middle of May when snow was still melting high above on the Uncompahgre Plateau. The water was probably about 18-24 inches at the deepest point. We were able to ride the ridge of rocks on the left on our mountain bikes without getting our feet wet but on the return trip we crossed in the middle and weren't so fortunate.
This part of the Tabeguache trail follows the Dominguez Road which is also named FR 408. The road is seasonally closed from January 1st to May 15th. The sign mentions that the dates may vary depending on current conditions. This trip occurred after May 15th and the gate was still closed. The gate is only for vehicles and OHV's that are wider than 50 inches. If you can fit through the trail squeeze to the left of the gate then you can continue anytime.
After passing through the gate the road climbs steeply out of Dominguez Canyon.
Going in this direction the one-way elevation gain is 2,662 feet. The round trip elevation gain is 3,395 feet. If you are covering the trail in the opposite direction then the elevation gain will be only 733 feet making it much easier in that direction. The elevation profile for the trail shows how it is laid out between the Dominguez Campground and the Divide Road.
At the 1.62 mile point from the trailhead an intersection comes up where the Tabeguache trail continues straight ahead.
The climb might slacken in grade from time to time but it never totally relents.
At the 3.3 mile point there is another intersection where the Tabeguache trail veers off to the right. At present there isn't a trail marker for the Tabeguache trail at this intersection. Since the Tabeguache trail and FR 408 are one and the same for this section of the trail the signs for the main FR 408 road work just as well. The left fork at this point is for 408.3A.
As the trail turns more towards the west from the last intersection the climb becomes much gentler.
At the 5.72 mile point the trail crosses the crest of a ridge and begins descending into the upper Big Dominguez Creek drainage.
At the 8.71 mile point the trail crosses the creek again. The crossing has a mat in place to help control erosion and to keep it from getting rutted out by vehicles. On this spring day the water was between 2-3 feet deep making our feet, legs and mountain bikes get very wet.
After crossing the creek the trail begins climbing once again with only one more little downhill stretch between here and Divide Road.
The trail crosses onto private property for 3/4 of a mile at the 11.71 point. At the 13.3 mile point the Dominguez Road meets up with the Winter Camp Road.
After 13.5 miles the Dominguez Section of the Tabeguache trail comes to an end where it reaches the Divide Road. From here the Tabeguache trail follows the Divide Road for the next 14 miles or so. For this post we turned around and returned the way that we came to the Dominguez Campground.
Primitive campsites like this one along the Dominguez Road are a big part of what people love about the Uncompahgre National Forest.
This is a picture of one of the campsites at the Dominguez Campground where there are tables and firepits as well as restrooms.