Trail of the Month: January 2006
Galloping Goose Trail, Colorado
Approximately four miles southwest of Telluride, Colo., you'll find the Galloping Goose Trail, a 15-mile path that provides ample views of snowy mountaintops and frolicking wildlife. This scenic trail guides users over 20 footbridges, past historical landmarks and through the deep gullies of Uncompahgre National Forest—some of Colorado's most beautiful scenery. Maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, the Galloping Goose is known as the season's first and last skiable trail, consistently receiving more snow than any other Nordic trail in the area. So, if you love to cross-country ski or snowshoe, prime trail time is between the months of October and April. The rest of the year this dirt-surfaced trail is ideal for vigorous hiking and bicycling.
The trail follows the curious but charming Rio Grande Southern Railroad (RGS) line; keep a look out for little historical landmarks along your path. From Durango to Ridgeway the RGS offered mail and freight services to local businesses and passenger service to travelers. This narrow gauge line used the Galloping Goose, which was half automobile and half train, to navigate across the area's steep cliffs and rugged mountains. As you might have guessed the train's name gave birth to the trail's name.
Before starting your journey take note that, due to its gradually increasing elevation, the Galloping Goose is rated as an intermediate experience level trail. If you are looking for a less challenging experience, start at Lawson Hill (near the intersection of CO Hwy. 45 and the 145 Spur into Telluride) and ride toward South Fork Road. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this section of the trail is the most heavily used segment because of its single track, out-and-back route. This portion of the Galloping Goose is also heavily signed so you won't get side tracked as you make your way along the trail gazing at the breathtaking mountain views.
From South Fork Road, head south towards Sunshine Road among the sweet smelling Ponderosa pines and tall oak trees. This area is rich with wildlife such as burrowing owls, skunks and black bears. Keep your eyes peeled for any sight of these animals and if you come across signs of a bear, vacate the area as quickly as possible.
The portion of the Galloping Goose from Sunshine Road to Ophir Loop is the most scenic section of the trail. Heading south, you'll follow the San Miguel River and pass several old railroad ties. Make sure to stop and get a good look at these ties as they are fascinating and reflect the historical significance of the trail. If you brought your camera with you, take time to get photos of the river, as it provides amazing views at dawn and dusk.
From Ophir Loop make your way to the trail's southern terminus at Lizard Head Pass. This five-mile segment hugs Trout Lake and during the winter, is maintained by the Telluride Nordic Association. (FYI—locals in this area call this portion of the trail the Trout Lake Railroad Grade, so don't get confused if you hear that moniker.) This heavily forested segment also passes the last historical trestle along the route. The U.S. Forest Service used state historical and government transportation funds to restore this trestle and the project was completed several years ago.
In the future the U.S. Forest Service hopes to extend the Galloping Goose Trail from Telluride north. Working with San Miguel County, they have acquired grants and small parcels of land in order to achieve this goal. They also plan to continue making the already existing trail segments better. With dedicated trail advocates such as the U.S. Forest Service, San Miguel County and the Telluride Nordic Association, the Galloping Goose will continue to be a wonderful example for future rail-trails in the Colorado.