Dry Creek Section

One-way Distance: 15.7 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 5783 - 8045 feet
Elevation gain: 3,054 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Dry Creek Canyon/Shavano Valley
Fee: none
Attractions: Desert to Forest

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 Dry Creek Section which begins in the Shavano Valley near Montrose and stretches for almost 16 miles to the Transfer Road. The first 3 miles of the trail follows the Rim Road. From there the route drops down into Dry Creek Canyon and begins a lengthy climb up to the Uncompahgre Plateau. This post follows the mountain bike route which includes several short sections of singletrack. This section of the Tabeguache trail ends at the Transfer Road in the Uncompahgre National Forest.

There are several routes that can be taken to get to the Shavano/Dry Creek trailhead. From the center of Montrose you can follow Spring Creek Road for about 6 miles and turn right onto 58.75 Road and follow it for a little over 2 miles to the Kiowa Road. Follow that to the Shavano Valley Road and to the trailhead.

The route that we most often take begins about 5 miles north of Montrose at the intersection of Highway 550 and Jay Jay Road. The directions are printed on the map above. Of course, you can always use Google Maps to create a map from pretty much anywhere else.

From the trailhead the route begins climbing up the Rim Road. For the first mile or so the Rim Road is lightly graveled but it turns more to hard packed dirt as it progresses. There are numerous other trails that connect to the Rim Road enroute to where the Tabeguache trail turns off of it. There are quite a few trail markers for the Tabeguache trail to help you stay on the correct route.

That turnoff is about 3 miles from the trailhead. At this point the Tabeguache trail branches off of the Rim Road on the right and passes through a green gate.

Almost all of the elevation gained up to this point is given back as the trail drops down into Dry Creek Canyon.

At the bottom of the hill there is a large trailhead and parking area for the Dry Creek ATV trail. At this point the Tabeguache trail stays on the road and continues past the trailhead on the left where it crosses a small wash. After coming out of the wash watch for a singletrack that branches off of the jeep route on the left. There are 2 singletracks on the left. The one to take is the one that leads across the Ralph Files Bridge. If you miss the turnoff you will be faced with riding through the sometimes deep and swift flowing waters of the creek. The singletrack reconnects with the jeep route on the other side of the creek.

After rejoining the jeep route the trail begins its long climb out of Dry Creek Canyon. There are spots where the trail levels off somewhat but the general direction is up.

The elevation profile of this section of the Tabeguache trail shows where it begins on the left in Shavano Valley, climbs the Rim Road, and then descends into Dry Creek Canyon. From there the upward trend is apparent. Riding the trail in this direction requires 3,054 feet of elevation gain. Riding this section as an out and back only adds 910 feet for a total of 3,964 feet.

Around the 8 mile point the trail makes a dip into Piney Creek.

After crossing the creek the trail begins a steep ascent up a very rocky hill.

The Tabeguache trail finally climbs over the canyon rim where after a few rocky ledges it smooths out considerably.

The next stretch follows some very fast red dirt double track.

Somewhere around the 9.5 mile point the trail reaches the Cushman Road. From here the mountain bike and jeep routes go in opposite directions to reach the Transfer Road with the mountain bike route going to the left.

The Tabeguache trail follows the Cushman Mesa Road for just over 1 mile. After crossing a cattleguard watch for a trail marker on the right. If you miss the turnoff all is not lost as the Tabeguache trail rejoins the road later on.

This part of the Tabeguache trail follows an old logging road for awhile before reconnecting with the Cushman Mesa Road.

By now the pinyon trees have given way to ponderosa pines. Near the 13 mile point the trail crosses the boundary fence between the BLM and the Uncompahgre National Forest. Be sure to follow the trail to the right after going through the gate.

Another gate comes up after about a mile of easy riding. After passing through the gate the trail follows the fenceline and then drops into the Cushman Creek drainage and crosses the creek.

As the trail climbs up the other side of the canyon after crossing Cushman Creek there is a spot where the grade hits 32%. If you look back at the elevation profile you will see a deep notch on the right near the end of the trail that represents Cushman Creek.

After climbing out of Cushman Creek the trail gets a lot easier for the remainder of the distance to the Transfer Road. There are several other trails that either join or split off but at the time of this post all of the intersections were well marked with Tabeguache signs. The Tabeguache trail continues to the left from this point as described in the Transfer Road Section. For this post we turned around and returned to the trailhead in Shavano Valley.

The ride back to the trailhead goes by in far less time than the ride in the other direction. Besides being almost all downhill, except 910 feet of climbing, all of the canyons are much easier to climb out of going in that direction. We did have to take the time to replace a tube on the trip back. We had aired it up several times but the hole eventually outlasted the slime. Piney Creek and Cushman Creek looked like they probably dry up about mid summer so don't count on them for filtering water. As far as this section of the Tabeguache trail goes the ride from Shavano Valley to the Transfer Road was quite the workout while the trip in the other direction was a real blast. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.