Massey Branch

Round Trip Distance: 5.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 7903 - 8796 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: FR #404.1B/Massey Branch
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike, wildflowers

The Massey Branch trail is located in the Plateau Division of the Uncompahgre National Forest near Grand Junction, Colorado. The trail begins off of Forest Road #404.1B where it travels down the Massey Branch of the Blue Creek drainage for 2.8 miles coming to an end at a junction with the Mailbox trail. Our maps showed this as simply the Massey trail but since the trail signs have Massey Branch on them we are going with that.

To get to the trailhead follow Highway 141 toward Gateway for 14.2 miles from its junction with Highway 50 near the town of Whitewater. Turn left onto the Divide Road and follow it for 15.5 miles and turn right onto the Uranium Road. Continue for another 4 miles where Forest Road 404.1B begins on the left side of the road.

Forest Road 404.1B is open to jeep type vehicles so we could have driven down it with our Tundra and parked closer to where the Massey Branch begins. Because it is such an enjoyable hike that is just over 3/4 of a mile and to avoid potential conflicts with ATV's we opted to begin hiking at the turnoff from the Uranium Road. We were able to see deer in several places along the way including this doe that was outfitted with a lovely necklace.

The Massey Branch trail begins on the right hand side of the road, across from some private property, at the 0.85 mile point of FR #404.1B.

As the trail begins it passes through a trail squeeze that limits access to nothing wider than a dirt bike. From there it continues down a shallow draw that gets deeper as it progresses.

The draw widens as the trail continues descending at a moderate pace through stands of aspens and spruce trees. An abundance of grass and thick growths of ferns fill the open spaces along the way.

Views of the surrounding cliffs add to the scenery as the canyon opens up into the Blue Creek Park area.

Near the lower end of the trail the aspen and spruce trees gradually give way to sage and oakbrush.

After 2.8 miles the Massey Branch trail rolls to an easy end at a junction with the Mailbox trail. From here it is right at 1 mile to the right to the junction of the Mailbox, Leonard's Ridge and Blue Creek trails and about 4 miles to the Divide Road at the upper end of the Mailbox trail.

For a relatively short trail the Massey Branch has a huge assortment of wildflowers. On the trip back we marveled that standing in one spot we could take pictures of a half dozen different varieties. We added to the collection as we continued up the trail and even discovered one that we don't have listed in our wildflower pages. This animated GIF contains penstemons, yarrow, lupine, asters, geraniums, milkvetch, fairy trumpets, mariposa lily, owls claw, sky pilot, wildrose, fireweed, yellow salsify, Indian paintbrush, lousewort, cinquefoil, licorice root, elderberry, goldenweed, stoneflower, goldenaster, snowberry, goldenrod, buckwheat and wild onion. There were a few others that were far enough off the trail or in awkward places that we didn't bother taking pictures off.

The Massey Branch appears to get most of its use from dirt bikes. A popular loop that they do is made by combining the Mailbox and Mailbox Cutoff trails with the Massey Branch to create a loop. The Leonard's Ridge trail is also open to dirt bikes and mountain bikes but it has a steep section that takes more advanced riding skills so it doesn't get quite as much use. If you are planning to mountain bike the loop we would suggest going in the clockwise direction by riding down the Mailbox trail and up Massey Branch for an easier time of it. Anyway you do the Massey Branch it is a great forest trail with very few bugs. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.