Wildcat Trail

Round Trip Distance: 6 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 6986 - 8427 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Wildcat
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic views, wildlife, wildflowers, solitude

The Wildcat trail is located in Unaweep Canyon along Colorado State Highway 141 between Grand Junction and Gateway, Colorado. The trail provides access to the Uncompahgre National Forest from the valley floor. The upper trailhead of the Wildcat trail meets up with the Thimble Point or Forest Service Road #417.

The obscure turnoff for the Wildcat trailhead is just before mile marker 133 which is just over 21 miles from the junction of Highways 50 and 141 at Whitewater, Colorado. Secluded within the trees, practically invisible from the highway, is a small area with two picnic tables. If you turn to the left after pulling off the highway and passing through the fence you will see the sign marking the beginning of the trail on the other side of the green Powder River gate.

The trail crosses the valley floor towards the southern cliffs of Unaweep Canyon. There are about a half dozen wooden posts serving as trail markers to keep you on the right trail.

The trail begins climbing at a gentle pace through thick stands of oak brush. On this day there were numerous elk tracks on the trail and a cow elk could be heard calling perhaps for her calf. The oak brush was providing good cover for them.

The trail begins climbing at a steeper pace for the next half mile with a quarter mile stretch of particularly steep hiking. The trail becomes more confined the closer it gets to the top.

After about 1.8 miles there is an old barbed wire gate and at the two mile point the trail comes out on top of the mountain. Just past this sign the trail meets up with an old double track road and continues along it to the right. If you go to the left at this road you will eventually come to a dead end.

The Wildcat trail continues for another mile of easy hiking through stands of ponderosa pines.

There is another gate where the Wildcat trail reaches its upper trailhead. It is important to keep the gate closed to keep any grazing cattle in their proper pasture.

There were some logging operations going on near the upper trailhead. There is usually logging going on somewhere in the Uncompahgre National Forest at most any time.

It seems a reasonable guess that the Wildcat trail may have been named because someone at some time encountered a mountain lion in the area. As I was going up the trail I first saw a pile of some dried up mountain lion scat and then a little further I saw another dried pile and then a little further I saw a fresh moist pile with flies buzzing around it. Just past that was a pretty good pile of bear scat. By this time I was carefully watching my back trail and the surrounding trees of the very confined area.

As I was coming down the steepest section of the trail I saw a bear coming around the bend about 50 to 100 feet away. It was headed uphill towards me taking very slow and deliberate steps up the trail. I pulled out my extra large can of bear spray that I had already taken the safety off. At about that time the cub came waddling  around the corner. There is nothing worse than a mamma bear, or elk or any other kind of mamma, when they have their babies with them. The mamma bear made a gesture to the cub and it quickly fell in behind her. I stood my ground and cleared my throat so they could hear me. The mamma gestured again to the cub and it left the trail through the brush. The mamma remained firmly planted in the middle of the trail with a cold glare in her eyes while the cub got away a short distance. After a few moments I cleared my throat a couple more times and the mamma bear followed after the cub. I gave them about a half a minute or so before I continued on down the trail. When I got to the spot where the bears had been I was surprised that they hadn't gone very far from the trail before stopping. They both high tailed it a little further as I passed by.

The area at the trailhead is called a picnic area but there were apparent indications that people had also been camping there. There aren't any signs that say 'no camping' or anything else. I went through 100 ounces of water and 40 ounces of Gatorade on this hike. If I would have started later in the day I'm sure I would have needed a lot more. The stream that drains the Wildcat trail area dries up pretty early in the year so you can't count on it for any of your water. The Wildcat trail has a pretty steep section to climb if you follow it all the way to the top but at least it's not like that all the way.   If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.