The new Aqueduct Trail system outside of Mancos will open to cyclists, hikers and equestrians on May 1.
Four miles of new single-track trails are ready to explore out of the 12 miles planned for the 800-acre parcel of Bureau of Land Management land northwest of town.
There are two trailheads off of Road 39, with one accessing from the south and another from the northwest. A parking lot is planned for the northwest trailhead. The trailheads will have temporary signs until permanent signs are installed.
The Mancos Trails Group and the BLM completed the first section of nonmotorized trails just before the Dec. 1-April 30 winter wildlife closure last year.
“The trails are fun with good flow. They’re beginner-friendly and suitable for all ages,” said MTG Chairman Robert Meyer, in an interview with The Journal. “There has been a lot of buzz about it in town. It really took off in November. A lot of people came up to check it out then it shut down for the wildlife closure.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for May 1 at 11 a.m. at the new northwest trailhead off Road 39 to provide information about the trail project.
To reach the northwest trailhead event from Cortez, go west of Mancos on U.S. Highway 160 and turn north on County Road 39. Head north for 0.63 miles as the road angles westbound. In another half-mile, there is an intersection. Follow Road 39 at a right angle to the north. The trailhead is in 0.7 mile on the right (east). Look for the Mancos Trails Group banner.
MTG volunteers will lead group biking and hiking tours of the 4 miles of new trail, which includes a loop route called Moonscape.
The project has been years in the making, and involved a lot of volunteer effort, planning and donations.
“We couldn’t have started this project without community and town support, and with that continued support. We hope to complete a large portion of the remaining 8 miles this fall,” Meyer said.
To build the first 4 miles, MTG volunteers contributed 1,507 hours. The group raised $6,198 toward the project, and is fundraising to cover the $32,000 estimated to complete the remaining 8 miles of trails in partnership with the BLM.
The BLM will pin-flag the next section of trails this spring and summer. To complete the trail project as quick as possible, MTG plans to contract with a machine trail builder before volunteers buff out the new trails.
The BLM plans to construct a main parking lot at the northwest trailhead, said BLM planner Jeff Christenson. The design is for 15 to 20 cars with space for two to five horse trailers.
Currently there is not a formalized parking lot, but there is some room to park. A timetable for parking lot construction is pending BLM engineer availability and funding.
The south trailhead will not have an established parking area, but there is room for a couple of cars. The south trail is intended for access for people walking or riding from town or nearby neighborhoods.
Aqueduct Trails feature rolling terrain suitable for beginning and intermediate riders. Trails traverse sagebrush and piñon juniper forests, cross steep drainages and feature panoramic views of the La Plata Mountains, Menefee Mountain, Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute.
“It is so scenic out there with a wide-open feel that is fun to explore,” Meyer said.
The Aqueduct trails are just 2 miles from Mancos, and that proximity is a big benefit for the Mancos community, Christenson said.
“That is the goal, creating trails close to towns so communities can have quick access and get the health benefits of outdoor recreation,” he said.
The new trail options at Aqueduct are expected to draw riders coming from Durango too, which will take pressure off Phil’s World in Cortez.
“It is a new trail option for the public and is not as technical as Phil’s,” Christenson said.
The trails are nonmotorized, and are open to Class 1 pedal-assist electric bikes.
The name Aqueduct came from the area’s irrigation history and the trails will have water-related names. The new trails are named Hypolimnion, Epilimnion, Swale, Retention and Discharge.
MTG is seeking grants to help pay for trail construction and will hold fundraisers. The next one is a silent auction with live music the evening of May 21 at the Mancos Brewery.