The new 12-mile Aqueduct Trail system northwest of Mancos was mostly completed this summer and fall and is ready for hikers, cyclists and equestrians to explore.
But a winter closure to protect wildlife begins Dec. 1 and goes until April 30.
The Mancos Trails Group recently completed about 7 miles of trail in partnership with contractor Shawn Gregory of Big Loop Trails. The new trail sections are in addition to the first 4 miles that opened May 1.
The nonmotorized trails are all on Bureau of Land Management land, with a main parking area and trailhead on Road 39. The trails are designed to be one-way directional, and signage explains the routes. Class 1 e-bikes are allowed.
There is room for 20-25 vehicles, and 2-3 horse trailers, said Don Hoffheins, chairman of the Mancos Trails Group. The parking lot was improved over the summer, with less rough entrance, a culvert, and additional clearing of brush.
More parking lot improvements are planned, including a graveled surface, bike tool stand, shade structures and changing areas.
The new singletrack trails are fun and scenic, Hoffheins said. They flow well on a hard-packed surface with terrific views of surrounding mountain ranges, mesas and valleys.
“It is packing in real nice, with swooping turns and good climbs. We’re seeing bikers, joggers, hikers and horseback riders getting out to enjoy these public lands,” he said.
Sixty volunteers logged a total of 2,502 hours on trail installation in 2022 at Aqueduct.
This year, the Mancos Trails Group was awarded a $37,000 grant from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for trail projects.
The grant funding allowed for a $27,000 contract with Big Loop Trails, of Dolores, to expedite trail construction.
Community fundraisers sponsored by the Mancos Brewery have also raised thousands of dollars. Sales of the Aqueduct Trail Ale were donated to the trail project. Funding was used to purchase a tool trailer for trail building equipment.
“It has been a fantastic year, we can’t be happier to have all the support,” Hoffheins said. “Everyone jazzed up about them, and the fact they are close to town is something this community has wanted.”
There are two public access points for the trail system, but the main access is the northern trailhead and parking lot.
A southern access point on BLM land does not have a parking lot and is designed for people accessing the trails by riding or walking from Mancos or nearby homes.
Trail visitors are reminded to not park on private property, and to be aware that red-signed county roads in the area are private.
The Aqueduct trails are accessed off of Road 39, a green-signed public road.
MTG is working with Montezuma County on installing signage directing people to the main parking lot. The recommendation is to put a sign on at the south trail system access that states parking one-mile ahead.