Hartman Rocks: A Recreation Mecca for All Seasons

By Jefe Branham

For many folks living in Gunnison, Colorado, Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is a staple in our lives. A 14,000-acre, BLM-managed recreation area boasting over 90 milesĀ  slick rock, offers everything from friendly and mellow to tough and technical. The Gunnison County managed base area, with lots of parking, toilets and a gazebo, is only 4 miles from town. It all adds up to truly great place for hiking, cycling, camping, motorcycling, picture taking, climbing, Nordic skiing and so much more. Living in the mountains means that every year is different – how much it snows, when it snows, how cold it gets, how soon things melt out and dry up and when it starts raining. Many years, Hartman Rocks stays open to most modes of travel for up to 8 months of the year, roughly sometime in April through sometime in November. You never know as some years we ride bikes till January, and some years we ski until March.

A mountain biker on a trail lined with sagebrush


Once the snowfall stacks up, the gates close and it is time for winter travel. Dog walkers, hikers, snowshoers, skiers and snow bikes become the main modes of travel, crossing tracks with big game – rabbits, porcupine and coyotes. Gunnison Nordic takes on the job of grooming about 25 kilometers of trails for classic and skate skiing. Skiing out there is like nothing else; when it is good, it is unbelievable! Skiing among the rolling granite walls on perfect corduroy with a vast and breathtaking view in all directions, a very special place indeed!

Fat biking on a snowy trail


The latest mode of travel to hit the roads and trails are snow bikes, which are big fat-tired bikes made for floating on top of packed snow. With recent warm temps and lack of snow, skiing at Hartmans would have been quite difficult whereas the riding has been great. Riding mostly after work, when it is cold and frozen (don’t leave ruts!) has been fantastic. There really is more to love about the place and after a few years of riding Jack’s Trail, Becks, Tailpipe and Tech Becks on snow, we are all so lucky to be able to enjoy such an amazing place. Skiing and biking aside, every winter the most common traveler at Hartmans is walking. Footpaths get packed into the snow threading out in all directions from the parking lot, headed up into the “Rocks.” Some with snowshoes, some walking dogs, a few only going a little ways, others headed out on longer adventures. A magical experience can be found among those rocks and sage. Simple is often perfect.

A place for all seasons with a great variety things to do. Hartman Rocks does not get old and is always a little different. So don’t let winter scare you or keep you inside. Get on your feet, skis, bike or snowshoes. Be smart, be prepared and by all means get out there at Hartmans Rocks in Gunnison!

a close up of wildflowers

Jefe Branham was born and raised in Connecticut and moved to Gunnison in 1992. Since then, he has been hiking, skiing, camping, dog walking and cycling every chance possible. Jefe has hiked the Colorado Trail three times and biked it six times and raced his bike 2,700 miles down the spine of the continent twice. He says, “Every time I leave and see the wonders of the world, I am always so happy to come home to sunny Gunny!”

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