Southeast of Montrose and southwest of Gunnison, the Alpine Loop is a popular ATV riding loop. The old mining town of Lake City provides a great starting point for exploring scenic alpine terrain by ATV. Two of the most interesting sights are Engineer Pass and American Basin This is some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the state, and therefore, is quite popular with ATV riders. Most of the dirt roads are open to ATV riding, but none of the trails.
The Alpine Loop is a 65 mile network of dirt roads open to ATV riding between the towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. There is a central loop with numerous side spur roads. Generally, the routes start off well-packed and easy to traverse close to the main towns, and as the roads climb in elevation, the roads deteriorate. Near the passes, the roads are steep and quite rocky.
These roads are winding and have numerous blind curves with steep dropoffs. Make sure to watch your speed, especially on loose sections. The roads are open to vehicular traffic and can be quite crowded with bikers, cars and ATVs on the weekends. During summer months, it is not uncommon for there to be a half-dozen accidents each week.
There are five ATV staging areas along the loop. These are located in Eureka, Canyon Creek, Lake San Cristobal, Engineer Pass turnoff on US550, and at Henson Creek in Lake City.
To reach the Henson Creek trailhead in Lake City from Gunnison, head west on US50 for 9 miles. Turn south on SR149 for 45 miles to Lake City. In Lake City, follow the road heading west up toward Engineer Pass to reach the Henson Creek Trailhead (about 0.5 miles).
While Lake City is a scenic mining town and a nice place to start, there are no ATV rentals available. As of Summer 2016, limited ATV riding is permitted in the town of Lake City with some restrictions.
Note: Colorado residents must register their off-highway vehicle with the Colorado State Parks (303) 866-3437. Out-of-state residents who bring OHVs into Colorado must purchase a Colorado Non-Resident OHV permit which is valid from the date of purchase through the following March 31. These permits can be purchased anywhere you get your hunting/fishing licenses in Colorado. All off-highway vehicles must have an approved muffler and spark arrester. These requirements are subject to change so make sure to contact the Colorado State Parks prior to using your off-highway vehicle.
Overall, Alpine Loop is the 2nd most popular ATV riding trail of all 90 ATV trails in Colorado.