New Aqueduct Trail system opens May 1 near Mancos – The Durango Herald

Volunteers from the Mancos Trail Group constructed new trails at the aqueduct approved by the Bureau of Land Management. (Courtesy picture)

Four miles of ready-to-ride non-motorized, hiking; 8 miles planned for construction this year

The new Aqueduct Trail system outside of Mancos will be open to cyclists, hikers and horseback riders on May 1.

Four miles of new single-track trails are ready to be explored on the 12 miles planned for the 800-acre Bureau of Land Management parcel northwest of town.

There are two starting points for Route 39, one accessing the south and the other accessing the northwest. Parking is provided for the northwest trailhead. Trailheads will have temporary signs until permanent signs are installed.

The Mancos Trails Group and the BLM completed the first section of non-motorized trails just before the winter wildlife closure from December 1 to April 30 last year.

“The trails are fun with good flow. They are beginner-friendly and suitable for all ages,” MTG President Robert Meyer said in an interview with The newspaper. “There’s been a lot of noise about it in town. It really took off in November. Lots of people came to check it out and then it closed for wildlife closure.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for May 1 at 11 a.m. at the new Route 39 northwest trailhead to provide information about the proposed trail.

New Bureau of Land Management trails are being constructed on the Aqueduct Trail System, located near County Road 39, northwest of Mancos. (Courtesy of the Office of Land Management)

To reach the northwest trailhead from Cortez, head west from Mancos on US Highway 160 and turn north on County Road 39. Head north 0.63 mile as the road slants west. In another half mile there is an intersection. Follow Route 39 at right angles north. The trailhead is 0.7 miles on the right (east). Look for the Mancos Trails group banner.

MTG volunteers will lead group biking and walking tours on the 4 miles of new trail, which includes a loop route called Moonscape.

The project took years to prepare and involved a lot of volunteer effort, planning and donations.

“We could not have started this project without the support of the community and the city, and with this continued support. We hope to cover much 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 for the project and is raising funds to cover the estimated $32,000 to complete the remaining 8 miles of trails in partnership with the BLM.

The BLM will pin the next section of trails this spring and summer. To complete the trail project as quickly as possible, MTG plans to contract with a machine trail builder before volunteers clear the new trails.

The BLM plans to build a main parking lot at the northwest trailhead, BLM planner Jeff Christenson said. The design is for 15 to 20 cars with space for two to five horse trailers.

Currently there is no official parking lot, but there is room to park. A schedule for construction of the parking lot is pending availability and funding from BLM engineers.

The south trailhead will not have an established parking area, but there is room for a few cars. The South Trail is intended for access by people on foot or on horseback from the city or surrounding neighborhoods.

The aqueduct trails feature hilly terrain suitable for beginner and intermediate riders. The trails wind through sagebrush and piñon juniper forests, cross steep drainages, and offer scenic views of the La Plata Mountains, Menefee Mountain, Mesa Verde, and Sleeping Ute.

“It’s so scenic out there with a wide-open feel that’s fun to explore,” Meyer said.

The Aqueduct trails are just 2 miles from Mancos, and that proximity is a great benefit to the Mancos community, Christenson said.

“That’s the goal, to create trails close to cities so communities can access them quickly and experience the health benefits of outdoor recreation,” he said.

The new track options at Aqueduct should also attract riders from Durango, which will reduce the pressure on Phil’s World in Cortez.

“It’s a new track option for the public and it’s not as technical as Phil’s,” Christenson said.

The trails are non-motorized and are open to Class 1 power-assisted e-bikes.

The name Aqueduct comes from the region’s irrigation history and the trails will have names related to water. The new trails are named Hypolimnion, Epilimnion, Swale, Retention, and Discharge.

MTG is looking for grants to help pay for the construction of the trail and will organize fundraisers. The next is a silent auction with live music on the evening of May 21 at Brasserie Mancos.

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