Ute Creek Cutoff

Round Trip Distance: 4.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 8141 - 8767 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Ute Creek Cutoff
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike

The Ute Creek Cutoff trail is located in the Plateau Division of the Uncompahgre National Forest near Grand Junction, Colorado. The trail begins off of the Uranium Road where it travels down a branch of Indian Creek and around the point of a ridge to get into an adjacent draw where it meets up with the Ute Creek trail.

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 4.8 miles where the trailhead is on the right hand side of the road. There isn't an official parking area but there is room for 1 or 2 vehicles to pull over out of the way on the switchback.

From the road the trail drops into the shallow draw and begins following the right side of it The trail doesn't get enough use to keep the lush foliage from obscuring it but for the most part it is still easy enough to pick it out of the under growth and follow it.

There are several stretches where the ferns reach heights of 4-6 feet. Ferns are easy enough to tromp a path through but on this day they were soaked with rain so we ended up hacking our way through them. The path we made should remain for the rest of the year.

Around the half mile point the trail passes through a fence where the gate doesn't look like it has been closed for quite some time.

Near the 3/4 mile point the landscape transitions to oakbrush and the trail begins turning to the right and wrapping around the point of the ridge toward the neighboring branch of the drainage.

Scenic views of the La Sal Mountains and the canyons that flank their eastern slopes leading down to Gateway and Highway 141, where the Dolores River has set its course, can be seen along this portion of the trail.

After traveling around the point of the ridge the trail begins working its way up the next draw.

On this side of the ridge there were a few more recently cut logs indicating that someone at least is trying to keep the trail open for use.

The trail is also more than a half mile longer on this side of the ridge. At one point the trail bends around a deep canyon and crosses a trickling stream. There are a few puddles where a horse could drink but there is better water at the end where it meets up with the Ute Creek trail.

After crossing the stream the trail climbs a rocky slope that takes it up to an outcrop in the ridge.

From the rocky outcrop the trail makes a gradual descent that takes it down to a long meadow where it meets up with the Ute Creek trail and comes to an end. Backpackers should have little trouble finding a good primitive campsite under the nearby sheltering aspens.

The Ute Creek Cutoff trail has almost 1,300 feet of total elevation gain most of which occurs over the last 3/4 of a mile on the return leg of the hike. On the day that we took the photos for the trail we came across some bear tracks and a huge pile of very fresh scat but we never did see hide nor hair of the bear. Given the short lines of sight for much of the trail any encounter may have been a close one. The one thing that you can expect on the Ute Creek Cutoff trail is an abundance of solitude. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.