Divide Forks Cutoff

Round Trip Distance: 6.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8524 - 8856 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Divide Forks Cutoff
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, deer, elk

The Divide Forks Cutoff trail is located in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Grand Junction, Colorado. The trail stretches for about 3.2 miles between the Divide Road FR402 and the Smith Point Road FR406. The Forest Service website has the length of the trail as 2.9 miles one-way whereas our GPS readings show it to be about 3 tenths of a mile further. Besides the enjoyment we derive from being outdoors one of the main reason we hike all of these trails is to discover for ourselves what is really out there and share our findings with anyone that is interested.

This post begins at the Divide Forks Cutoff trailhead on Divide Road just past the Divide Forks campground. From the northern Forest Service boundary on the Divide Road measure 9.1 miles to the trailhead. Parking is limited and somewhat awkward at the trailhead but that usually isn't a problem. About all you can do is pull off the road and park in the grass trying not to block the actual trail.

The entire length of the trail is a single track. The trail begins by crossing an open meadow. After passing through a trail squeeze that blocks travel for anything wider than a dirt bike the trail drops down into the shallow upper head of a canyon.

This is the shallowest of 3 different forks of Smith Creek that the trail crosses between here and the Smith Point Road. We scared up a large buck that escaped into the canyon before we could even think of taking a picture of it as we crossed the creek at this point.

An aspen forest with widely spaced trees makes it much easier to see game passing through the area. More sunlight is able to penetrate the canopy of leaves allowing the grass and wildflowers to thrive.

The trail is mostly level until around 1.6 miles into the hike when is descends almost 150 feet to the second fork of Smith Creek.

A few cow elk that were grazing near the trail moved back into the trees a little while we passed through.

The calves remained behind in the grass making an attempt to blend in while their moms tried to draw attention off in the other direction. One of the cows let out a shrill chirp that pierced the forest air so loudly that it was probably heard several miles away.

After crossing the third fork of Smith Creek the trail climbs until it gains a little over 200 feet. The ascent is gradual though as it is spread out over 3 times the distance as the previous hill.

After an hour and a half of hiking the trail reaches the other trailhead on Smith Point Road where we turn around and head back.

There is a commanding view looking toward Smith Point with the Grand Mesa filling the horizon in the distance and the Dominguez Canyon area hidden between the two prominent points of land.

The Divide Forks Cutoff trail has a little bit of elevation gain hiking in and out of the Smith Creek drainages but it is such a pleasant hike with ample opportunities for viewing wildlife that it is worth the effort. You can actually shorten the hike and only do the first mile and a half and that will cut out almost all of the hills. The trail doesn't get much traffic from hikers but I have seen people with young children that seemed to be having a very enjoyable time. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.