Trail System: Horse Gulch
Uses: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Snowshoeing
Distance: 3-4 miles
Difficulty: 2 (Meadow Loop), 6 (Telegraph), 7.5 (Pautsky Point), 8.5 (Anasazi Descent) out of 10
Trailhead: Horse Gulch Trailhead
Distance from Campus to Trailhead: 1.1 miles
Fun fact: The meadow below Telegraph where Meadow Loop trail goes was previously a garbage dump, operational until the late 1950’s.
The Telegraph Trail is not necessarily one trail, but a trail system that can be used to explore the mountainous ridges just southeast of campus. This trail system is great because it generally stays pretty dry and easily accessible until there is a significant amount of snow in town. Then it can be used for snowshoeing when there is enough snow!To get there from campus descend from campus on 8th Avenue hill and remain on 8th Avenue until making a left turn at 3rd Street. Here there is a large medical office and a parking lot for the building, but the trailhead parking is in a separate lot behind there. The trail immediately heads up a wider path that was previously a 4WD road. This is known as “Horse Gulch Road,” follow this for .7 miles until reaching a trail intersection with a large trail sign. At this intersection you will take a right and enter a large meadow. This trail is known as Meadow Loop, and if you wish to stay in the meadow you can remain on this trail and it will eventually loop back to the large intersection and sign. This loop is a really mellow hike or bike ride. However, if you would like climb one of the prominent ridges to the southeast, then stay right at the first two intersections, then left at a cabled gate. After crossing to the southeast side of the meadow there will be a smaller trail sign, stay right here as well. Soon the trail will begin to climb the ridge. This trail is moderately difficult, and features one large switchback which allows you time to take in the gorgeous views of town and the La Plata Mountains.
At the top of the hill there will be a bench and slightly further up there will be an old telegraph-wire pole. To the right you will notice a much less travelled trail that will lead you to the summit of Telegraph Ridge and Pautsky Point. This is a gorgeous overlook that allows you to see the mesas extending south to New Mexico and East to Bayfield, Lake Nighthorse to the southwest, Smelter Mountain to the west, and town to the Northwest with Hogsback, Perin’s and Twin Buttes overlaying the La Platas in the distant background. The side trail to reach Pautsky point is treacherous and very difficult though, one cannot bike up it and the ascent on foot involves climbing up a rock chute that is an approximately 35 degree slope. This is also completely inaccessible if there is snow or ice in the rock chute. To descend return the on the same trail back to the bench at the summit of the Telegraph trail.
To go down from there return on the same singular switchback for a moderate hike or ride; or for a more exciting trail, venture about 20 feet past the bench to locate the junction to the Anasazi Descent. This is a very difficult mountain bike trail and a pretty steep hike, but some may find the challenge enjoyable. Do not attempt this trail on snowshoes, it would be unnecessarily exhausting and possibly dangerous. This will lead back to the same small trail sign encountered from the beginning. Head back towards the meadow and down the Horse Gulch Road to get back to the parking lot.