Overcome obstacles to ride rad

Exploring remote areas of rugged 4-wheel drive and off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes is one of the best ways to experience Colorado. Boulderstrewn, twisty, steep, and rutted paths reward determined explorers with uncommon and unforgettable landscapes, sightings of elusive wildlife, and more elbowroom for a brief escape from civilization.

Without question, many of my best outdoor experiences in a life lived in Colorado have occurred along such routes — pristine mountain lakes with nothing but the sounds of nature and the conversation of friends around a crackling campfire, rugged canyons with Gold Medal fishing, and high mountain meadows blanketed with wildflowers more impressive than any botanic gardens.

A few of my off-road experiences come to mind for less desirable reasons like ill-equipped, chilly nights stranded in remote areas, and excursions into the unknown that were forced by unwisely passing a “point of no return.” The better portion of these experiences resulted from bad choices in equipment, route, skills, and weather, or a combination of all of the above. But hindsight is indeed 20/20.

As a sage instructor of mine used to say, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.” – words that aptly apply to equipping oneself for an enjoyable and less trouble-prone off-road experience. Developing OHV skills, it would seem, is one of the more difficult elements to acquire without venturing out on the trail and learning the hard way.

Thankfully, the Peach Valley OHV Skills Course, located in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area (GGNCA) north of Montrose, provides a unique opportunity for beginning and advanced riders alike to hone their skills before heading out on the trail.

Not only does the skills area equip riders by introducing them to the types of obstacles that they may encounter on trails within the surrounding area, it also helps minimize impacts to area trails by training riders to navigate through and over trail obstacles instead of around them.

The course is situated in the Peach Valley OHV “Open Area” of the GGNCA where riders can develop their skills and then rocket off along their own path without adhering to specific trails. Once outside of the open play area, however, the rules change and riders are required to remain on designated routes.

The staging area next to the course, with ample parking and unloading areas as well as primitive facilities to ease the call of nature, completes the list of features that make this off-road hotspot a wise choice for OHV enthusiasts of all types and skill levels. Spend the day working on your skills and exploring the roads and single-track trails that extend for miles through desert-like “adobe” terrain and along juniper-laced slopes that offer ridgetop views of the Gunnison Gorge. Throw in a little hiking from one of several trailheads into the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area and your day is what I would call “complete.”