News Riding

Ride Colorado’s Gunnison National Forest

Colorado has many great off-highway riding trails, and some of the best are in the central part of the state, in the Pitkin area of the Gunnison National Forest.

The Pitkin area has a rich history and spectacular scenery. Head out from Pitkin in any direction to explore forest, mountains and even ghost towns.

The Gunnison National Forest was named for Capt. John Gunnison who went to the area in 1953 to try to find a route across the Continental Divide for a railroad. The forest consists of more than 1.7 million acres of public land.

If you go east from Pitkin you can ride up the to the western portal of the Alpine Tunnel at an elevation of 11,523 feet. Begun in 1880, it was the highest railroad tunnel in North America, chiseled through solid granite.

On the ride up check out the workmanship of the “Palisades,” which is a 432-foot-long retaining wall built with hand-cut stone and no mortar more than 100 years ago.

Continuing east, you can negotiate Hancock Pass, which was a wagon and mule route over the Continental Divide. This trail can have very difficult sections near the summit. Once over the top you can ride into the ghost town of Hancock.

Heading north from Pitkin takes you over the Cumberland Pass, with an elevation of 12,000 feet. Then you find the small town of Tincup, once known as Virginia City. The mining town as violent in the late 1800s. Apparently town Marshal Harry Rivers died in a gunfight in 1882. Marshal Andy Jameson was gunned down the next year.

East of Tincup is Mirror Lake, which makes a great spot to stop for lunch.

There are miles and miles of trails in the area to enjoy that are maintained include loops and links to larger systems. Motor vehicle travel is allowed only on designated trails and roads. All OHVs must have a current state registration.

There are campgrounds in the area as well as the Quartz Creek Cabins, Silver Plume Lodging and the Pitkin Hotel in Pitkin.

The town of Gunnison is about 26 miles west and offers more lodging and restaurants.

The Gunnison Ranger District is at 216 N. Colorado, Gunnison, CO 81230. Phone: (970) 641-0471. For more information, go to