Expedition To Taylor Park, Colorado Hot
All of us remember the feeling we get when we involve ourselves in something really exciting for the first time. Maybe for you it was the first ball game you played in, or the first time you went hunting with your dad. It could be the first movie you went to see, or a concert. We have all been lying in our beds the night before an exciting event with the inability to sleep because we are so looking forward to what the next day and the experience hold for us. The feeling I am referring to seems to come less often as we get older, but there is nothing like that anticipation of something special. For me I get this feeling whenever I am getting ready to ride an ATV. I can tell you there are few things in my life which give me more unadulterated fun than loading the trailer and heading out for a day (or days) of riding on my quad. I (as well as my fellow riders I might add) turn into a kid who isn’t just going into a candy store but Willie Wonka's candy factory! The prospect of discovering the unknown beckons me to head into the wild and absolutely pulls at my child-like instinct to explore. This feeling is twenty times greater when I know I am headed out for a true ATV adventure into tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of miles of trails in some of the most beautiful country in the U.S! Welcome to my experience prior this ATV expedition. I looked forward to this trip for months, and didn’t sleep normally for a week before my fellow riders and I set out. When the day came to leave and head north to Colorado, I felt like Lewis and Clark on a mission of discovery into the unknown. The best part was that I would not be disappointed, as this was an adventure of a lifetime---and then some.
The goal on this trip was to have an outstanding adventure, and Taylor Park, Colorado, delivered the adventure in an incredible way. When looking for a fantastic place to have an ATV adventure, we can say without hesitation Taylor Park, Colorado, is a "must visit." There are few places in the U.S. as ATV friendly as, and none any more friendly than, Taylor Park. After 8 days, 575 miles, several rain storms, quality time spent in the Nugget Café, plenty of showers at the RV park, buying supplies at the trading post, losing our kitchen tent to the wind, many nights spent listening to the cows mooing at 3AM, some of the most incredible scenery we have ever witnessed, and coming back from the day’s ride around eleven at night, we discovered this adventure was one for the record books and certainly one we will be sharing again.
Taylor Park is in a valley West of Pueblo, East of Crested Butte, South of Aspen, and North of Gunnison/Almont, an area which incorporates 90,000 acres and several National Forests and has trails traversing the area. It is located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Taylor River feeds into the Taylor Park Reservoir, which is a popular fishing area. The towns of Tin Cup, Pitkin, and Saint Elmo are all on these trails, and are accessible by ATV, dirt bike, and UTV. You can take a 45 minute drive to Crested Butte and ride 4 or 5 more trails in that area, but you can’t connect with them from any Taylor Park trails. You can also ride your ATV down to Aspen from the Taylor Park trails, but you can’t drive into Aspen on an unregistered vehicle. The Taylor Park Trading Post acts as a “home base” to work from to gain access to the trails. Taylor Park is as ATV friendly as you will find, with towns allowing you to drive through without any problem. If you spent a month of riding every day, we are not entirely sure you could ride all the trails that exist. Some of the trails are not even open to jeeps, and there are a few single-track trails for dirt bikes only. You will also see horses and bikers on these trails, so you want to stay alert. This is truly an amazing place to ride. Once you arrive you can park your truck, and get almost anywhere you want to go on your ATV. We can say without any reservation you will WANT the Funtreks ATV Trails Guide Colorado for Taylor Park and Crested Butte. This guide is the best $20 you could possibly spend as it is much better than just a map. This book became our best friend in planning this expedition, and even more of our best friend when used alongside our GPS during our expedition. I can not tell you how many copies of this book I saw in peoples’ hands out on the trail. They sell it at the Taylor Park Trading Post, but you will want to order it before you go (www.funtreks.com ), so you can get a feel for what you will be riding. With the exception of the quads and rain gear, this was our most important piece of equipment we took.
From the moment our expedition party arrived, we knew this was going to be an incredible adventure. We also quickly came to the realization that we were going to need more than 7 days to ride this area full of trail after trail. After spending three months studying the area using the FunTreks Guidebook (we know that is a shameless plug), we decided to camp on the Texas Lakes trail about a mile in. There is so much camping space available it is ridiculous. According to the locals, this was one of the busiest seasons they have had, but finding camping spots was no problem. You can camp all along the Taylor Creek Road (742), on many side trails, or in the Forest Service campgrounds. Getting to a suitable camping spot on the Texas Lakes trail took about 30 minutes since this road is rocky, rough, and tight. It took some patience, but the patience paid off as we found a good site next to Texas Creek. We set up our camp as quickly as possible so we could hit the trail, and hit the trail we did. They had some rain storms that day, so the trails were good and wet, which made for some great fun. Before we knew it, the sun was going down and we knew this was just the beginning of the fun and adventure we were in for at Taylor Park, Colorado.
The next seven days were just a blur---each day filled with trails, mines, rain, mountain peaks, rocks, rain, creek crossings, perfect temperatures, and rain (Did we mention that?). Every day we rode new trails, had new adventures, and saw new sites. Many days we got in after dark, having ridden all day, but surprisingly not that tired. These trails are filled with remnants of centuries past such as log cabins, mining equipment, mining related buildings, and town sites. There are also cemeteries and graves off some of these trails which are well worth taking the time to visit. Be sure to stop at the Tincup Cemetery. The cemeteries take you back in time as you look at the dates. Before we arrived in Taylor Park, we had used the previously mentioned Funtreks Guide Book to get a feel for how the trails were laid out. What we figured out is that trails can be grouped together around the surrounding towns and the trails to get to those towns. It is possible to figure out about how much time it will take to cover a trail, and then group the trails together into a full day's ride. You will wind up going back over a few trails in the process, but you can minimize this by planning ahead. It is imperative to get a good feel for how the 90,000 acres is laid out before you head out. We would also recommend taking a GPS in an area this large. By the time our trip was over we had logged almost 600 miles.
Terrain and Scenery
If we could summarize the terrain on most of the trails in Taylor Park with one word, that word would be rocky. Most of the trails are composed of numerous rocks of all different sizes along with hard-pack soil, which tends to remain firm when wet and easily turned into dust when dry. We found very view places where there was any mud to speak of, and most of that would not get a two wheel drive ATV stuck. There are also places where the creek becomes the trail, which we really enjoyed. Regarding levels of difficulty, there are very few trails which pose much threat to a rider other than one of intimidation. There are some trails which have a drop-off on one side which can strike some fear for the inexperienced. Almost all the trails have a few steep spots, and some have a spot or two where you need to pick a line to get through, but they are nothing more than fun. Of course there are trails which are an exception to this statement. Iron Chest mine out of Saint Elmo (We will have the trails listed with GPS maps in the next couple of weeks.) is a boulder field which requires skill and four wheel drive to make it through. That trail is rock crawling at its best, and will be abusive to your ATV if you don’t pick the right spots. We would not recommend a beginner or intermediate rider do anything other than look at this trail. Another one would be the Grizzly Lakes trail out of Saint Elmo. The obstacle at the beginning of this trail will get you hurt if you don’t know what you are doing, and even if you do, this is one of the two most dangerous trails in Taylor Park, dangerous not only to your health, but to your ATV’s health. You will need four wheel drive, a spotter, a HELMET, and a new pair of pants. If you attempt this trail, there is another tricky spot a little farther up as well, but nothing compared to the first obstacle. Only expert riders should attempt this trail. The final trail only experts should attempt is off of the Italian Creek/Reno Ridge. There is a cutoff for 759.1A which has a “caution” sign at both ends, as you can see in the picture to the right. We of course had to take this trail because that is what we do. The danger comes in as you squeeze along a boulder-littered shelf road with a 40 foot drop off on one side. Toward the middle of this road, there is a series of boulders which put you in an off-camber situation which can cause you to roll off the side of the cliff. It has a major “pucker” factor. You will be scraping the skid plates along this road as well, and will need four wheel drive. If you don’t consider yourself an expert rider, have experience in off-camber situations, and have a high tolerance for risk DO NOT take this cutoff. Also if you get to this spot and can’t pull it off, then you will be in just as much trouble, as there is no place to turn around. I was riding with one of the best riders I have ever seen, and even he was “puckered” because of the drop off. If it wasn’t for the drop off, this trail would be difficult but not so dangerous. These are the trails which remain in our minds as "expert rider only" trails. You will be able to see all the trails we rode listed in our Riding Destination listings within the next couple of weeks. All the trails at Taylor Park are a blast to ride, and also to experience the incredible scenery. On all the trails, you will want to make time to stop and look around to take it all in. Some of the peaks we made it to the top of had breathtaking views. Take a camera so you can take pictures!
The weather as a whole was wonderful. The highs in July and August are in the low to mid 70’s, and the lows at night get down to the lower 40’s. Most days are partly sunny, and it is not uncommon to get afternoon showers. While we were there we had several days of thunder storms during the day and the night. We can tell you that even if you are wearing a helmet, rain hurts when it hits your nose while you are going down the road at 50 MPH. Most storms lasted a few minutes to an hour or so. What is amazing about riding up in the mountains is you can see the storms coming and going. There will be clouds in the distance and you can see it raining or sleeting. The rain is just as likely to miss you all together since the storm clouds tend to be separated. One day we had taken a difficult side trail to the top of a peak above the mine on the Tellurium Creek trail. It took a good thirty minutes to traverse the switchbacks to the top, only to find a thunder storm with lightning coming right for us. We did our very well practiced “stop, drop, and put rain gear on” move just before the sleet and rain started, accompanied by high winds. We then had to get off that peak as fast as possible to get away from the possibility of lightning. You have never seen quads (and us) move so quickly in your life. The point is that you must be prepared for the temperature changes and sudden storms. Take rain gear or you will be buying some (which they do have at the Taylor Park Trading Post)! We carried several layers of clothing and a couple of jackets with us at all times along with our rain gear. We also used these layers of clothes several times.
We would be remiss not to let you know what kind of quads we were riding. Polaris was kind enough to allow us to test an 09 Sportsman 850XPS with power steering. Can-Am provided us with an 09 Outlander 800R, and we brought one of our own quads which is an 07? Polaris Sportsman X2 500. The Sportsman 850 XPS with power steering was truly an incredible quad to log so many miles on. We nick named it the “Mountain Goat” because no matter what we were trying to go over, it always felt firmly planted on the ground. The power steering really shined in so many different trail scenarios, but none more than rock crawling. We were able to turn the handlebars with our thumb in most situations. The Can-Am Outlander 800R had raw unadulterated power. When you hit the throttle on that beast it would jump forward. When it comes to power, the Outlander has a “fun” factor of 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. You can steer the quad using the throttle by causing the back-end to come around. The Sportsman X2 we nicknamed “The Tank” simply because it can always be depended on the get the job done no matter what the terrain. It also has a longer wheel base which makes for a sturdy machine. We will have full write-ups on both the Polaris and Can-Am in the near future.You can read our Tested- Polaris Sportsman 850 XP EPS.
The facilities in Taylor Park consist primarily of the Taylor Park Trading Post, the Taylor Park Gift Shop, the Nugget Café, the rental cabins, the Colorado Dream Ranch RV Park, and the Forest Service campgrounds, all of which are accessible on your ATV. The Taylor Park Trading Post and Gift Shop have all kinds of supplies from camping equipment to groceries and ice. We bought ice, bread, our OHV stickers, and an extra pair of raingear from the trading post. The trading post also has GAS, which we all can agree is very important. There were more ATVs than trucks at the pumps every day! Across from the Trading Post you will find the Nugget Café. The Nugget Café is a restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, great pies and excellent coffee. We made some great new friends at the Nugget Café as we spent some quality time there (I did say great pies and excellent coffee). You could eat here for all your meals and the food is quite good. They have several rental cabins in a couple of different sizes if you want to a place to stay rather than camp. The Colorado Dream Ranch RV Park is a nice facility which also has bathrooms and showers along with a Laundromat people not staying in the RV Park can pay to use. Even though we camped we had to take a shower every day, so the RV Park became a favorite place for us. There is nothing quite like hot water! Colorado Adventure Rentals is located next to the Trading Post where you can rent ATVs and UTVs. As a side note the Trading Post facility has a portable cell tower. This translates into you can use your phone (we had AT&T) at the Trading Post and that is it (and I mean it!). By the time we got about 300 yards away we had no service. Finally, there are the Forest Service campgrounds. Some are pay sites and have vault toilets you can use. There are some facilities in the surrounding towns of Tincup, Saint Elmo, and Pitkin. Tincup has the very popular Frenchy’s Café (You will want to eat here at least once) and a general store (more of a gift shop) but no gas. Saint Elmo has a couple of stores that were closed when we went through but no gas. Pitkin has the Silver Plume General Store which has gas and supplies. If you want anything more than what is mentioned above you will need to go into Gunnison which is about 30 miles away and takes about an hour to get there, or Crested Butte. Gunnison and Crested Butte have everything you would expect from a good sized town from a Wal-Mart to grocery stores and restaurants.
Taylor Pass #5 in the Funtreks Adventure Guide is a must ride. It is rated as difficult mainly because of how rocky it is along with a spot where you climb out of the creek. The trail actually runs up the creek in places, making the ride there quite fun. This trail is rough, but getting to the pass is well worth it. At the top you can continue to several trails and other peaks you can see. We had to turn around without exploring as we ran out of daylight.
Italian Creek, Reno Road # 3 is a trail with a lot to offer. It is rated as difficult and steep, which is accurate. We found it to be not all that difficult, and there were many other side trails we took which lead us to some amazing peaks. Except for road 759.1A which we mentioned in the paragraphs above, most riders will be able to handle these trails. Be sure to have the guidebook or map, as it is easy to get turned around with some of the turns on this trail.
Slaughterhouse Gulch #13 is just a great trail to ride. It is fun as it has dips, rocks, incline in places, some old cabins, and a couple of side trails to explore. It would be considered an intermediate trail, but there is nothing on it which can get you in trouble. You can run this trail slow or fast depending on what you are feeling at the time.
Napoleon Pass #15 is the next trail we really enjoyed. This trail comes out of Tincup by the Tincup Cemetery and up the mountain past the Gold Cup Mine. The Gold Cup Mine has plenty of buildings to see and many picture opportunities worth taking. The trail is rocky and rough along with a creek crossing which you can see was a little deep and muddy. I actually got stuck crossing this on the first try. Luckily, I backed up and took a shallower line to get across. The pass offers a great view.
Be sure to take to take the Alpine Tunnel #17. You will pass by historic signs talking about the Alpine tunnel and an avalanche which killed several people in a day where train travel was the fastest way to travel and transport goods. What the rail workers had to deal with to get track laid in these sections is astounding. At the end of the trail, you can walk the remaining distance to the Alpine Tunnel past the different buildings used by the railroad to service and protect trains and passengers. There is a restored depot building you will want to see. Make time for this trip.
You will no doubt see lots of wildlife. We saw plenty of mule deer, rock chucks, a beaver, and best of all an elk. We did not however see a Sasquatch (Yes, J, I know you were disappointed). You will experience the summer wild flowers which are beautiful and everywhere. One of the neatest things you will see is history through the cabins, buildings, and equipment along the trails. This evidence of the past makes you feel small in the scheme of things. Many a man lived and died in these areas looking for wealth, adventure, and freedom. I guess some things remain timeless.
To say you should make the trip to Taylor Park would be an understatement. I have been going to Colorado all of my life and this area is the place to go for weeks of riding fun. Taylor Park has so much space and trail miles to experience. Couple those things with access to towns you can ride through, great camping spots, breathtaking scenery, so much history, and the ability to get gas and supplies at the Taylor Park Trading Post, and you have a recipe for an incredible adventure. We will be returning to ride this area for years to come. So pack up and make the trek to Taylor Park, Colorado. You will not regret it. We will see you on the trail.
We would like to thank our sponsors for providing us gear for this expedition. We will have full write-ups on the equipment they provided.
- 2009 Polaris Sportsman 850XPS- aka Mountain Goat
- 2009 Can-Am Outlander 800R- aka The Rocket and Rhinoceros
- 2007 Polaris Sportsman X2 500- aka The Tank
- Maxxis 'Zillas
- ITP BajaCross
- Carlise ACT
Two Garmin 276C’s
Our Rack Packs
- Kolpin Hardcase
- Kolpin Softcase
- Kolpin Trail-Tec Crossover Series
- GPS and Map or GuideBook
- Tire Plug Kit
- Food and Water
- Air Compressor or CO2 Tire Inflation Kit
- Waterproof Fire Starters
- Tow Rope
- Extra Layers of Clothing
- Extra Jacket
- Lodging- Taylor Park Trading Post and RV Park
- Food- Nugget Cafe
- Supplies- Rentals, gas,
- OHV Sticker – You can purchase this at the Taylor Park Trading Post (which is the easiest) or in Gunnison at the Forest Service office, Wal-Mart, or a sporting goods store.
- Obey the speed limit.
- Ride only on existing trails (so they don’t close this area to ATVs).
Quads- We would recommend having an ATV with IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) as the trails are extremely rocky. The day will be much more enjoyable and less taxing. We saw sport quads but we would not recommend them as the differential in the back could easily get damaged on the rocks. Four wheel drive would be a definite plus as some of these trails can be steep. Most all the trails could be done in two wheel drive, but it is safer to have the security of the front wheels pulling.
Rejet- If you have a carbureted ATV then you will need to change the jet size in order to make it run correctly in the higher altitudes. Higher altitudes rob your engine of power, and if not rejeted can cause your engine not to run at all. If you have electronic fuel injection you will not need to do anything as the EFI does the adjustments on its own. Taylor Park Trading Post sits at about 9500 feet or so, and some of the trails push 13,000 feet. Be sure to make the necessary changes if your quad needs to be rejeted. You can call your dealer to determine what you need to do.
- Firewood- You can pick up firewood once it has fallen off the trees. Pine is readily available all over, so you will not need to bring firewood.
- Fires- There are plenty of fire pits which have already been made at current camping locations. Try to use existing fire pits and not make new ones. Be extra sure you put your fire out completely by putting it out with water.
- Tent Camping- The wind can pick up and blow tents over. Carry some extra tent stakes (the good metal kind) and rope to secure your camping gear if needed.
- Water- Water is available at the Taylor Park Trading Post for free and at the RV Park if you ask nicely. Take some water containers and fill them at these locations rather than having to bring it on your drive. You can also use the water out of the streams and river if you boil it first.
- Booking Cabins- The cabins and RV spaces at the Taylor Park Trading Post can be booked years in advance, so call early to get a spot!
For more pics from our trip just click on any of the pics below. You will be taken to a gallery to view many more. We suggest you click the view slideshow for the best viewing experience. We also want to thank J Adee at Back2Productions for taking pictures on the trip and providing them our enjoyment. You can also view his gallery of pictures from the trip Back2Productions Taylor Park, CO Gallery.