Chinaman Gulch

May 11, 2022 - JeepToursCO
Native Jeeps Chinaman

A jeep on a paved road is safe, but that’s not what jeeps are built for.

I just completed the build on my two door Rubicon (37 inch mud tires, 3.5 inch lift kit, etc) in April and anxiously awaited her shakedown cruise. Where did we go? Ego, weather, and distance were all factors so we trucked on down to Chinaman Gulch near Buena Vista. We wanted to run a tough trail near our headquarters that wasn’t closed with snow.

While there are plenty of fine lodging establishments, Branden and I chose to camp two nights at dispersed sites on the Fourmile Area trail and along the Arkansas River. However, we did cheat on our camping experience with a delicious victory dinner at Casa Sanchez 3 and celebratory soak at the Cottonwood Hot Springs. If you’re not into camping, I’d try staying at the latter. 

Jeep Tours Colorado by NAtive Jeeps Chinaman Gulch Trail

We ran Chinaman Gulch during the middle of the week so we had the trail to ourselves. It is a seven mile loop that does not disappoint with mostly difficult trail and countless obstacles.

The trail starts with a climb up to the point where Carnage (see below) ends and shortly after begins a “lolly-pop” loop. Signed directionally at that point, and we followed that direction.  

As you work your way around the loop the trail continues to climb to its high point around half way thru the loop.  Several obstacles along the way, most with bypasses or alternate lines. In this way, Chinamen is a trail where you largely control how hard you go.

We each got stuck at different places (self recovered both times) and I nearly tipped my two door over turning down a steep hill. My front passenger tire hit a hole and Branden claims my rear driver tire lifted at least FOUR FEET off the ground. I was happy to remain on the right side of the teeter totter!

Jeep Tours Colorado by Native Jeeps Chinaman

This is a tough and rewarding trail and validated my decision to build my Jeep.

My recommendation to run Chinaman Gulch:

  • 35 inch tires but expect to scrape
  • don’t go alone or without someone with a good amount of wheeling experience. 

After finishing, HIKE the one mile Carnage Canyon trail. The foreboding steel warning sign doesn’t do this extreme trail justice. Great place to stretch your legs and let the dogs run!

Native Jeep Carnage Canyon

Very well marked trail with easy navigation. Johnson Village is very close for gas and supplies. It is very hot on trail as the tree cover isn’t extensive and the trail mostly faces the sun, so stock up on water as you head through. Also this is the last real restroom as the trailhead features a port-a-potty. Fairly large lot at the trailhead can fit large number of vehicles, but would probably fill up on busy weekends.
Rated as difficult, this trail deserves the rating. It is a must-do for Colorado Jeepers!
[This guest post was written by our good Jeep buddy and future partner Christian Mahler.]
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