|Something for Everyone in Fourmile|
|Articles - BV Outdoors|
by: Allison AbdelnourAmong my most fond memories of living in this extraordinary valley are the days gone by when my good friend, Noelle, and I would load up our favorite horses in the trailer and head for a very special place called Fourmile. Frisky and energetic, the horses could always anticipate the adventure ahead. Finally out on the ride we would spend hours on end trotting and cantering through the sandy washes and splashing our way across the creeks as we explored and discovered new trails.
The first time I ever ventured into this gigantic playground I felt that certainly some fantastic Hollywood movie must have been filmed here, for the beauty of the place and of its many vistas can compare to only a very few. The area of Fourmile consists of about 100,000 acres of Forest Service and BLM land in northern Chaffee County. It lays just east of Buena Vista, starting at the edge of the Arkansas River to its west, Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area at the north end, South Park on the eastern side and Aspen Ridge and the Brown’s Canyon Wilderness Area to the south. It varies from rolling prairies to craggily red rock laden hills, from pinon-juniper forests to semi-desert to cool ponderosa and aspen forests. It is a multitude of microclimates unto itself as it stands in clear contrast to the dense pine forests across the valley that amply clothe the “fourteener” mountains. Midland Mountain, which resides at the heart of the northern half of the Fourmile area, serves as the centerpiece to Buena Vista’s Main Street and the South Main neighborhood.
What is so special about the Fourmile area is that it literally offers something for everyone. You can find a short 10 to 45 minute diversion from town life by hiking a loop up the Barbara Whipple Trail, taking in the views and the rushing sound of the nearby Arkansas River (see my previous article about the BWT). Or, you can pack your gear for an all day adventure or a multiple day excursion. In any case, much of what Fourmile has to offer is available year round. There are numerous ways to enjoy the area and here are just a few:
Hikers can venture up Buffalo Peaks, which stands at 13,326 feet. With its beautiful meadows, numerous beaver ponds, and dramatic cliffs and expansive views of the Collegiate Peaks across the valley and of South Park it is an enjoyable one or two day trip. What is particularly nice about it is that because it does not carry the distinction of being a “fourteener”, you tend to have the trail to yourself.
If you are big into rock climbing you should check out buenavistaclimbing.com for maps and other information about what is available in the area. Well known favorites include locations such as Bob’s Rock, Turtle Rocks, and Split Rock to name a few. There is also a popular multi-pitch climb on Davis Face.
My fellow equestrians will enjoy spending summer and fall days exploring the Bassam Park and Kauffman Ridge areas with your trusty steeds and like-minded friends. You can literally spend days on end riding this range. One of my favorite aspects of Bassam is the view that offers a particularly striking juxtaposition of the dramatic foreground of red rock with the snow capped fourteeners set as a backdrop. During winter months when Bassam is likely inaccessible, you can in most years ride till your heart’s content in the northern areas of Fourmile.
Starting from the Buena Vista River Park bridge, mountain bikers have convenient access to numerous trails of varying difficulty. The Midland Bike Trail and Gentleman’s Loop are both very popular but there are also many more trails open to bike use. Check out the link at the bottom of this page for a map.
The Fourmile area has several trails that are designated for ATV and/or extreme 4WD usage as well as many, many miles of unpaved roads. This is a great way for families to get out and enjoy the area together. Bald Mountain Gulch and Arnold Gulch offer spectacular views while the road through Aspen Ridge leads you through an amazing seemingly endless grove of aspens. Whichever way you choose to go, don’t forget to pack a picnic as you will find may places where you will want to stop for a bit to take in the scenery.
Perhaps in a future article I will be able to introduce how the Fourmile area is of interest to history buffs, geology enthusiasts, and artists alike but for now I’ve run out of space.
In thinking back to my many visits to Fourmile over the years I am amazed at how often I discovered some new, secret, and most favorite place that I had never before seen. It would be wrong for me to write an article about Fourmile without giving an enormous amount of credit and many thanks to an organization called Friends of Fourmile. This group organizes volunteers for hundreds of hours of work each year. In partnering with the BLM and USFS they help to maintain and designate trails and by doing so are able to provide managed recreational opportunities to the many different interest groups that use and love the area. They work very hard to assure that the environmental impact is controlled and that damaged areas are given ample opportunity to be reclaimed. In addition, they have put together a very helpful collection of information and maps of the area. These as well as membership information can be viewed at this link.
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