Grand County Rambler: Paving the way: Hiking on BLM lands
Strolling through the woods and mountain meadows of Grand County is an experience like few others.
There is an ethereal, almost religious, quality to the feelings imparted by wandering the hills and valleys of the high Rockies. Many who flock to Middle Park during summer months dream of alpine meadows filled with wildflowers or clear mountain streams running icy cold runoff; the quintessential landscapes evoked when imagining Grand County.
It is, not surprisingly, easy to forget that much of the territory within Grand County is not marked by snow capped peaks or filled with lodgepole pines. Rather, much of Grand County is covered in sagebrush, grass and scrub oak with relatively few trees. A significant portion of the land in Grand County that fits such a description is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Most BLM land in Grand County is concentrated north of US Highway 40 in a broad corridor stretching from Granby to Kremmling along the Colorado River. If you’re looking to experience some of Grand County’s outdoor beauty this weekend but aren’t interested in struggling against large crowds or aggressive vacationers slow things down a bit and check out some of the BLM’s public land. Lands administered by the BLM tend to be among the least congested areas of Grand County.
A short drive west of Granby on US 40, just a shade under five-miles down the highway, you will find a quiet little turnout to a nondescript dirt road that provides access to a section of BLM land called Jacques. The road climbs quickly out of the river valley, passing through dense sagebrush as it twists and turns towards higher ground. A few hundred yards up the road is a small stand of lodgepole pines surrounding an old abandoned homestead that offers a remarkable opportunity for landscape photography.
The BLM road extends a short distance further up the riparian valley before ending at a wire fence in an open field. From the parking a clearly defined trail extends up into the sharply rolling hills through a stand of aspens. The first few hundred yards of the steep climb can be daunting on the sandy trail but soon enough visitors will reach a mesa plateau from which they can embark on a number of different journeys.
Multiple trails crisscross the region allowing recreators to wander up and down the hillsides and along the mesa’s south rim, which overlooks the Colorado River and traffic heading along the highway. Heading north the trails zigzag through the sagebrush, up and down the surrounding hillsides. An old jeep road serves as the main stem of the trail and heads both northwest and northeast from the rim of the mesa.
The northwestern fork takes travelers into a sparse pine forest along the banks of the Drowsy Water Creek. The northeastern fork heads along the mesa rim for a distance before diving back into the lightly wooded hills of the region as it works it way towards Smith Creek. I have not personally explored the northeastern fork of Jacques but I have taken the northwestern fork and the journey was quite enjoyable.
Officials from the local BLM Kremmling Field Office said the Jacques area is a popular destination for anglers with the access provided to Drowsy Water Creek.
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