Portis Loop

Round Trip Distance: 5.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 7938 - 8132 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Thunder
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike/bike

The Portis Loop is located in the Thunder Trails area near Norwood, Colorado. Thunder Trails is a newly created trail system in the Uncompahgre National Forest that was designed specifically for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and dirt biking. There are currently 4 trails in the system, for a total of about 19 miles, that are stretched out along Thunder Road adjacent to Naturita Canyon.

For this post we began on the west side of Thunder Road where the Portis Loop departs from the Thunder Loop.

The west side of the Portis Loop starts out gaining elevation as the trail heads south above Naturita Canyon.

Initially the trail has some good smooth stretches mixed with a few rocky spots and minor ledges to bump over. There are also a few roots and an occasional stump left over from when brush was cleared away to make room for the trail.

The pictures for this post were taken on Memorial Day at the end of May. Most of the lower brush was already green but the oakbrush was still a good week or two out. There was a light sprinkle falling from a passing thunderstorm at this portion of the trail that added a little haze to the pictures.

The west side of the Portis Loop does have some real kidney busting rock patches. As far as mountain biking skill level goes they don't really require any advanced riding skills although the more advance rider is going to have an easier time of it.

At the 3 mile point the west side of the Portis Loop meets up with the Naturita Rim Loop and they share paths as the route crosses the Thunder Road.

The two trails part paths on the east side of the road and from here the Portis Loop is almost like riding in a whole new place.

On this side of the loop the trail is much smoother and with a gentle downhill grade it can be very fast.

There is an irrigation ditch that meanders through the east side of the Portis Loop that adds some nice ambience with its grassy banks and the sound of the rippling water. The trail does cross it twice enroute. At the first crossing there are 3 options to pick from. There is a route over a bridge, one through the water on a flat rock lined path and in the middle there is a jump. If you opt for the jump you are going to have to catch some serious air to clear the opposite bank and pick a line that avoids crashing into the tree.

At the second crossing the only option is to either wade or ride through the water. The crossing is wide and shallow so if you are on a bike you can get across without getting your feet wet. There are narrower spots downstream where a hiker might be able to jump across.

Eventually the Portis Loop meets back up with the Thunder Loop and crosses back over to the west side of Thunder Road. On the day that we were there for this post we scared up a few deer in the open areas along the east branch of the loop as well as some wild turkeys. Even with a thunderstorm blowing through it turned out to be a very nice time. With the difference in terrain between the east and west sides of the loop the Portis Loop is like a tale of two trails. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike, horse, or dirt bike and 'Take a hike'.