FunTreks Guidebooks has been using Motor Vehicle Use Maps extensively for the last several years. This includes driving most of the trails shown on the maps. They offer the following tips based on our first-hand experience.
1. Every forest is in a different stage of MVUM development. Some forests have had time to change route markers on the ground to match the new maps. Other forests have not. Sometimes you’ll find a mix of old and new route numbers. This can be very confusing. Many forests have not yet published their first MVUM.
2. The main purpose of the maps is to make it clear which trails are legal and which are not. They are not intended to make your life easier. In the past, enforcement has been difficult because signs along the trails have been removed, are incorrect or unreadable. Now the MVUM is the final say in legal proceedings. It is your responsibility to carry the right MVUM and follow it.
3. Most forests have a separate map for each ranger district. On the map, roads stop abruptly at district boundaries. When a trail crosses from one district to another, it is very easy to get confused or lost. A prime example of this is Moon/Gamble Gulch and Pickle Gulch (See both of these trails in our new Northern Colorado book coming in May.) In the real world, these trails are intertwined. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has a different map for each area. To maintain our sanity, we found it necessary to piece together the two maps like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
4. The maps are very large and hard to handle. They tear easily and fall apart quickly.
5. The maps are updated every year. Make sure you have the latest version.
6. Some of the mapping was done with aerial photography, not actually tracked with GPS on the ground. We found a few roads on the maps overgrown and impassable. One example is F.S. 413.1 in the Moon/Gamble Gulch area. It narrowed to a single-track trail even though the MVUM showed it as a 4WD trail. The south end of F.S. 252 in the Miller Rock area had the same fate (see our new Northern Colorado book).
7. If and when the Forest Service finishes placing new route markers in the field, the numbers are still not likely to match the MVUM exactly. For example, often on the MVUM the Forest Service puts a decimal point on a primary route, e.g. 413.1. 8. Newly placed route markers often do not include the decimal fraction and appear simply as 413.
9. Seasonal trails are highlighted with a wide gray line. A separate chart listing each seasonal trail shows the exact dates each trail is open. If a trail is not highlighted it means the trail is open all year. No chart is used if all seasonal dates are the same. In this case, you have to look very hard at the bottom of the map to find a single line stating this.
10. Seasonal opening dates are not always adhered to. Sometimes wet weather or trail damage can delay opening, as happened on Kelly Flats in 2010. Often these closures are listed on the respective Forest Service Websites. If you have a long drive to the trail, look online or call ahead to be sure the trail is open.
11. MVUMs do not show every existing road, just legal forest roads. It is very confusing to encounter roads not shown on the map. County roads are shown with a light gray line, making them appear less important, when in fact they are usually major roads.
12. Laws for county roads are usually enforced by the local sheriff and not forest rangers. Typically, unlicensed vehicles are not allowed on county roads, but in some cases, enforcement is minimal and violations are common. Don’t assume since others are riding on a particular road that it is legal.
13. Some very famous 4-wheel-drive trails (like Pearl Pass near Crested Butte) are county roads, not forest roads. Learn to recognize county roads when reading a MVUM, since different laws and closure dates may apply.
Some forest roads, like Gillespie Gulch in the Boulder Ranger District, are shown as open on the MVUM. The Forest Service doesn’t mention that gates on private property block entrance to the trail at both ends. Apparently, you are allowed to drive Gillespie Gulch if you drop your vehicle in by helicopter.
14. Long before a MVUM is published, the Forest Service usually maps out other alternatives. Typically these are available online for public review. At some point, the Forest Service may share with you the alternative that is most likely to become final. FunTreks is sometimes forced to use the best alternative to select trails for upcoming books. For example, we’ve been using “Alternative G” for trails in the White River National Forest. This alternative shows that Lime Creek and Wearyman Creek trails will be closed when the new MVUM is published. Therefore, we did not include these trails in our last Colorado book, despite the fact that the trails remain open at the present time.
15. Printed MVUMs are free at ranger district offices and most can be downloaded from ranger district Websites. A full size map is too large to print on a standard printer, but you can screen capture smaller areas and print individual trails.
Click here to see a listing of all National Forests that have issued MVUMs.
Visit FunTrek to see a complete listing of all Colorado MVUMs by Ranger District.
Visit FunTreks Guidebooks for more 4x4 and SUV Trail Guides