Winter on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests brings snowy adventures and many outdoor activities to enjoy.
Winter also brings avalanche warnings, high winds, extreme cold temperatures, changes in road and campground status and new safety considerations. Visitors need to be aware of challenges and prepared for changing conditions. Here are a few resources and tips to help you prepare and stay safe when you head out to the forest.
Know before you go and choose your destination wisely. Have a backup plan in place in case you arrive to find a crowded trailhead or unsafe conditions. Be certain that you have the proper safety gear for your winter adventure, including extra layers, a shovel, food and water.
Consider your vehicle as part of your winter emergency gear. Be sure that your tires are ready for the snow and carry extra clothing and a sleeping bag in case you get stuck.
Winter backcountry recreation
Trails can be tricky to navigate in the winter months. Prepare by researching the trail before you go. Avalanches can strike even the most prepared winter recreationists. Visit https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/ for current conditions in Colorado’s high country during periods of elevated avalanche danger before venturing out.
Remember that avalanche equipment is only as helpful as your training and decision-making in avalanche terrain. Know how to use your gear, practice avalanche rescue skills in your group and respect your physical limitations. Let people know where you are going. Never go alone. Get avalanche educated or hire a guide before you visit the backcountry.
Most GMUG campgrounds are closed and inaccessible during winter. Visitors are encouraged to call the district office for details or visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gmug/recreation for current campground status. Campers are reminded to practice “Leave No Trace” principles, be prepared for limited services and pack out all garbage and human waste. Limited services means there will not be camp hosts, trash pickup, water, power or available bathrooms. The stay limit on the GMUG is 14 days.
Most GMUG motorized trails and roads are closed for the season. These seasonal closures protect the road surface from damage as well as protect critical wildlife habitat.
Remember–winter weather can change quickly and travel conditions can vary greatly from the time you leave your home until you reach your destination, especially in mountain passes and at higher elevations. It’s important to check road conditions before heading out and make sure you have the right gear in your car in case you run into delays. Tire chains may be required. Slow down when driving in winter conditions and use extra care while driving and parking.
Winter Motor Vehicle Use Maps identify routes and areas designated for “over the snow” motor vehicle travel, such as snowmobiles. Visit www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gmug/ for more information.
In many areas on the GMUG, snowmobile clubs groom roads for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing as a public service using volunteer time and funding from private and partner sources. Respecting signs and travel restrictions will help protect this investment in maintaining groomed surfaces and winter recreation opportunities.
Winter driving conditions in Colorado can be hazardous. Please be prepared and informed before departing. For Colorado road conditions call 511 within the state or check www.cotrip.org. Be aware of road work on US 50 while traveling to different areas of the GMUG. For scheduled road closures visit https://www.us50info.com/.