The Aqueduct trail system is being built on Bureau of Land Management land near Mancos.
Almost 12 miles of trails were approved by the BLM this year off County Road 39, northwest of town.
The BLM plans to construct a main parking lot at the trailhead on the western side next year, said BLM planner Jeff Christenson.
The trail will have a second access point from Road 39 on the southern side of the parcel, but it will not have a developed parking area. That trailhead offers quicker access for people riding or walking to the area from Mancos.
The name Aqueduct came from the area’s irrigation history.
The trails are open to hikers, horses and bicycles, including Class 1 non-throttle electric bikes. The area is closed from Dec. 1 to May 1 to protect critical wildlife habitat.
This year, volunteers with the Mancos Trail Group and the BLM build nearly 2 miles of a loop trail at the western trailhead.
The next step is to build an additional 1.5 miles of trail connecting the two trailheads, said Robert Meyer, president of the Mancos Trails Group.
On Oct. 16, the group plans to host a volunteer trail building day from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. A free picnic will follow.
The goal is to complete the trail project by the end of 2022, depending on adequate fundraising and labor, Meyer said.
The town of Mancos and local businesses have contributed toward the costs and funding of trail building effort, Meyer said. Southwest Colorado Youth Conservation Corps also contributed labor through the Montezuma Inspire Coalition.
The new trail system crosses hilly terrain, with some deep drainages. Trail difficulty ranges from beginner to intermediate.
Aqueduct offers panoramic views of the La Plata Mountains, Sleeping Ute Mountain, Mesa Verde and beyond. The trail cruises through piñon-juniper forests and sage brush fields. It flows across Mancos shale with sections that have a “moonscape” appearance.
The 800-acre section of the Aqueduct land has largely been overlooked until recently. It was identified for trail development to offer more convenient recreation access for Mancos-area residents.
“We’ve had positive feedback on the project. It’s had very little use, now residents have a trailhead less than 2 miles from town,” Meyer said.