The Signal Peak Trails Master Plan – December 2016
(Links to Gunnison Trails’ Signal Peak Trails Master Plan and map set at bottom of this page)
Gunnison, Colorado is fortunate to be surrounded by public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM.) Rivers and creeks along with highways and county roads running north/south and east/west neatly divide these public lands areas into quarters from Gunnison. The Signal Peak area comprises the northeast quarter and contains the most readily and historically accessible public lands from the Gunnison city limits. Situated adjacent to the city limits and the campus of Western State Colorado University (WSCU), this area has been a popular recreational amenity and access to public lands for as long as Gunnison has existed. Consistent trail use deeper into the area began in the mid 1980’s and was spawned by mountain biking. Trail use deeper into the area since has been dominated by mountain biking but hiking and trail running are popular, to, especially closer to Gunnison and the outlying neighborhoods.
Despite being the most accessible public lands for Gunnison valley citizens and visitors, the area lacks a comprehensive plan to provide for and manage recreational trail use, provide specific user experiences, and help minimize impacts to natural resources. Little trail planning has taken place and the area offers no managed trail experience beyond the WSCU property, other than two system routes, the Ridgeline trail and the Contour trail. Since the late 1980’s, livestock and game trails have become social routes and seen increased use every year.
Even though there has been no organization to these disconnected routes, for three decades mountain bikers, runners and hikers have cobbled together a variety of loops and out and back experiences, utilizing various combinations of the two system routes, the social trails and area system roads. Hikers are most common close to town and outlying neighborhoods, while runners have increased range and get further out. Mountain bike use is common throughout and there was a time when this area was more popular with local mountain bikers than the Hartman Rocks area. Additionally, equestrian and OHV motorcycle use has taken place on the trails in the area.
Every year, the Signal Peak area sees more human powered recreational trail use. Since much of the system is on social routes, wayfinding signage and maps of popular trails do not exist. Users currently employ trial and error, word of mouth descriptions and exploration tactics to experience the area often with much confusion. This plan is focused on creating an accessible, high-quality recreational trail system designed for the most common, low impact trail users in the Gunnison area: mountain bikers, hikers and runners.
Aligning with current national trends, this plan proposes an experience-based trail system for the Signal Peak area that follows the BLM’s Guide for a Quality Trail Experience (GQTE) and that is optimized for mountain biking. The GQTE uses trail experience as a primary factor in the design and management recommendations for trail systems (more on the BLM’s GQTE later in this plan.)
While Gunnison Trails has focused this plan on the low-impact, human powered activities of mountain biking, hiking and running, the determination of types of activities allowed on trails in the Signal Peak trail system will be made by the BLM. Typical activities allowed on BLM singletrack trails include:
● Mountain Biking
● Equestrian Use
● OHV Singletrack (Motos)
Gunnison Trails recommends that the system trails be non-motorized. Additionally, while mountain bike optimized trails are wholly appropriate for hiking and running, they are not always ideal for equestrian use. Decisions concerning equestrian use are beyond the scope of this plan and will be determined by the BLM.