Branson Loop

Round Trip Distance: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 8048 - 8197 feet
Cellphone: 1-3 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Dave Wood Nordic
Fee: none
Attractions: Ungroomed trail

The Branson Loop is part of the Dave Wood Winter Recreation Area in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Montrose, Colorado. From the parking area the trail follows a route that loops through ponderosa pines that are interspersed with oakbrush and sagebrush. Enroute the Branson Loop provides access to the Plantation Alley and Happy Hollow trails.

The trailhead is about 15 miles west of downtown Montrose. To get there drive west on Main Street from Townsend Avenue and follow the signs for Colorado Highway 90 for about 4 miles. Watch for the sign for the Dave Wood Road where you will turn left. Continue for another 11 miles or so. The trailhead is on the right at the forest boundary. There is additional parking across the road on the left.

Pick a path from the northwest corner of the parking area, just to the right of the kiosk, that heads through the trees toward a wooden fence. Snowmobilers like to run out on the Spring Creek Road which also begins from the same trailhead.

Once you find the right opening in the fence you are ready to set out on the Branson Loop.

From the fence the trail angles off a little to the right. It's easy enough to find your way when there are tracks to follow.

The actual loop begins near the quarter mile point from the parking area. For this post we followed the loop in the clockwise direction.

Metal posts with orange sticks make the trail very easy to follow. Generally on a clear day when it isn't snowing or blowing snow you only have to go a short distance from one post before you can see the next one.

The ponderosa pines make for a pleasant scene along the way.

People that are familiar with the area sometimes make their own trails like these tracks that cut across the middle of the loop. It is easy enough to tell from looking at the map that the Branson Loop stays to the left at this point. There is also another orange marker in that direction to go by.

At the 0.8 mile point from the parking area the Branson Loop turns back toward the trailhead. It is at this point that the Plantation Alley trail branches off on the left.

While the trails in the area are pretty well marked none of them are labeled which makes it difficult to know for sure which particular trail you are on. One thing that we noticed is that the trail markers at the intersections all had a 4x4 wooden post rather than a metal one.

As the trail heads back the other way it passes the point where the Happy Hollow trail branches off on the left.

When we took the photos for this post there was a section of the Branson Loop that nobody else had been using so we had the pleasure of making the first tracks through the snow. That area was well enough marked for us to find our way even without other tracks to follow.

Just before reaching the end of the loop there is another short trail called the Turnaround that might add a little confusion to the route finding especially if you don't have a map on hand.

Courtesy US Forest Service
We attached a copy of the Forest Services map that shows the layout of the trails and is real handy to take along. It also shows the segments that we haven't completed yet. There was only about a foot of snow on the level when we did the Branson Loop but it was plenty deep enough to cover broken branches and stuff. The Dave Wood Nordic trails are fairly easy to get to and the Branson Loop is an enjoyable place to play in the snow. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.