Fourmile Area: Shields / McGee Loop

Buena Vista, Colorado (Chaffee County)

Last Updated: 07/06/2018
3.7 / 5 ( 3 reviews )
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Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 1-2
( EASY )
Length: 7.09 miles
Highest Elevation: 9448 feet
Duration: About 45 minutes
Shape of Trail: Loop
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Buena Vista
Nearest Town w/ Services: Buena Vista
Official Road Name: 315 / 376 / 305
Management Agency: San Isabel National Forest
District: Salida District

Highlights

Highlight: Fourmile Area: Shields / McGee Loop
Miles of easy, winding roads with amazing views of the collegiate peaks on the west side and dispersed camping for tents, RVs, trailers, whatever you have. Most sites are in fir and aspen forests, but some are in open meadows that can accommodate larger groups. This area is close enough to Denver or Colorado Springs for an overnight camping trip, and the roads are fun for all sorts of off-road vehicles. Shields Gulch features campsites with stunning views of the Collegiate Peaks and the hills and valleys of the Fourmile area. McGee Gulch runs along a small valley with streams and marsh areas, cattle graze along the route. Campsites here offer more protection from wind than the exposed sites on the ridges of Shields Gulch, and are closer to the main route. Small water crossings and muddy spots add diversity to the drive, which is beautiful and easy. This area is popular with ATVs and horses because it is possible to bring large trailers in safely. There are non-motorized trails for mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians.

Video

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Concerns:
Summary:
The trail is fairly smooth with only small rocks and a few ruts.

Technical Rating

MANDATORY
1
EASY
OPTIONAL
2
EASY
Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 5" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 5" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 6" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep, but with good traction.
Read more about our rating system

Community Consensus

0 votes
1 votes
0 votes
Easier
Spot On
Harder

Description

This area is mostly easy, with sandy runs, some rocky sections and hills. All of it is suitable for a stock SUV with good ground clearance. As soon as you leave the pavement you'll be in sand, and that's the most common terrain in the area. There are muddy sections as well, but careful tire placement will get you through or around most of them. Compared to most Colorado trails there is very little embedded rock. Small whoopdees and potholes are more common on this loop. Shields Gulch / 315 follows a mostly flat path leading to a ridge full of camping spurs with views of the Collegiate peaks and the Sevenmile Creek area. The camping spurs are too numerous to list, and there are a variety of sizes and exposures for just about any camping style or group size. The first part of 315 is used to access the Midland Bike Trail, it is well marked and there are some kiosks with maps and rules near each trailhead. A local volunteer group, http://garna.org/friends-of-fourmile/ maintain the kiosks. The section of 376 that connects the trails is flat and uneventful, but beautiful and has some large flat camping spots that can accomodate large trailers. McGee Gulch / 305 is slighty rougher and narrower than 315 with more turns and small stream crossings. Some parts of the loop near popular camping, particularly on the western side, can be deeply rutted from large trucks pulling campers. We didn't have any problems with our stock Xterra.

Waypoints

1. 01 Shields Gulch Trailhead (0 mi)
Shields Gulch begins at a small paved area off highway 285 / 24. The road is sandy and level, and there is a kiosk near the start with maps and rules.
2. 02 Midland Bike Trail (0.07 mi)
The trailhead for the Midland Bike trail, which follows the route of the old Midland Railroad to Buena Vista. Non-motorized used only.
3. 03 Intersection with 376 (3.5 mi)
Shields Gulch ends at the intersection with 376. We turn right here to continue the loop to McGee Gulch. This section of 376 is level and easy, many people bring camping trailers along here.
4. 04 McGee Gulch 305 (4.8 mi)
McGee Gulch is narrower and more winding than Shields Gulch, but still easy navigable. Cattle graze here, there are small streams and marshes along the road, and some man made dams have created small ponds.
5. 05 McGee Gulch Trailhead (6.11 mi)
McGee Gulch begins at highway 285 / 24, and has a kiosk similar to Shields Gulch.

Directions to Trailhead

Take highway 285 / 24 East from Johnson village for approximately 5 miles and watch for signs for CR 315. Turn North onto CR 315.

Camping

Dispersed
Beautiful dispersed camping all over the area. Many sites can accommodate trailers. Views and privacy at most sites. No resources, no services, pack everything in / out.
Camping: Fourmile Area: Shields / McGee Loop

Land Use Issues

Seasonal closure of some or all gates.

Trail Reviews (4)

Author:
Status: Open
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Five stars is for the dispersed camping on the Shields Gulch (west) side of the loop. In terms of an offroad trail, there's a little more to it than a maintained dirt road but most any vehicle should be able to get along fine. Saw some pretty big trailers at a campsite pretty far in, so that tells you something. We camped in an amazing spot near the end of Shields, with great views and very little traffic. Rain in the area but it stayed dry where we were. Great views of the collegiate peaks too. Also, that forest is dead quiet at night. I'm used to frogs or crickets or something making noise, but just nothing. Enjoyed the peace!
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Followed CR 315 from Hwy 24 to CR 376. Saw lots of dispersed camping areas and the road was easy driving. Turned right at the intersection of 315 and 376 and followed 376 out to Chubb Park. See my review of Lenhardy Cutoff. Lots of dirt bikes, ATVs and UTVs on the roads so be alert.
Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Completed over two days using as access roads to other Four Mile areas. Found in good condition. All 2WD as far as I can remember.
Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
We made a day trip to the Fourmile Area on April 14, Thursday, for some light wheeling and what my wife and I call "Day Camping"- everything but the tent. The overnight temperatures were in the 30s with a huge storm brewing off the Pacific, so we got a room at the Best Western in Buena Vista for the night. When the night got cold and the rain started falling it was pretty cool to have a warm bed! It's a nice hotel, reasonably priced and clean, with a friendly staff. We often go day camping in the winter. We find a site to enjoy for the day and make a goal of leaving it as we would have liked to find it. Our weapons of choice are a trash bag, rake and shovel, and we leave an empty fire pit with 10' of non-flammable clearing around it; remove all trash and signs of camping. It is a nice feeling to know that the next person to use that site will have an easy time, maybe even keep it going.

Questions & Answers (0)

Writer Information

Marcus Trusty

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Marcus is a 3rd generation Buena Vista, Colorado native who grew up bouncing around the central Colorado mountains in the back of his dad's CJ5. During his younger years, Marcus grew to appreciate public lands and the recreation opportunities backroads and 4-wheel drive trails offer. Marcus has been wheeling for 20 years now and has wheeled in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Until a few years ago Marcus had just been a participant in the wheeling community, but he has become much more active in preserving trails and working to make sure the wheeling community has their access maintained for future generations. Marcus helped to found Colorado Off Road Enterprise - CORE, based out of Buena Vista. CORE has worked with the Forest Service and BLM and has volunteer agreements in place with both organizations. CORE also has a Forest Service trail adoption agreement in place for Grizzly Lake, Pomeroy Lake, Hancock Lake, Hancock Pass, and Tincup Pass, Tomichi Pass, Williams Pass, Ptarmigan Lake, Mineral Basin, Clohesy Lake, Lost Canyon, Champion Mill, Iron Mike Mine, and Slide Lake. If Marcus is not working you can generally find him somewhere out on the trails around Buena Vista.
For individual use only, not to be shared.