Rating - 8
Chinaman Gulch has increased in difficulty over the past few years due to the increased traffic on the trail. Many of the obstacles on the trail cannot be avoided but you can make the trail very difficult or somewhat easy depending on the line you take over these obstacles. It's highly recommended that you not attempt Chinaman Gulch in a stock vehicle.
From Colorado Springs go west on highway US24 for about 75 miles until it joins US285 in a T intersection. Turn South and go about 11 miles to CR301 and take turn south again. When the CSC4W club travels to Chinaman Gulch we will travel just past CR301 to the Gunsmoke Truck Stop where we regroup and then drive back the .5-mile to CR301. From the intersection of US285 and CR301 travel a couple more miles until you see signs warning you that you are on Prison Property. This time you will turn east onto a very narrow passageway between 2 fields. At the end of this passageway you will come upon a large parking lot with the Chinaman Gulch trail to the north and Carnage Canyon to the east.
Just to the north of the trail is Chinaman Lake and Chinaman Rock from which the trail acquired its name. When the loop portion of the trail turns to the south you can see Chinaman Lake to the west and to the south of the lake is Chinaman Rock. Chinaman Gulch is also part of the 4-Mile Recreation area and is maintained by the Buena Vista Off-Road organizations.
Shortly after leaving the parking lot you will need to go into 4WD as you will ascend a steep hill with several switchbacks, loose dirt and bowling ball sized rocks. The first obstacle after the hill is not as difficult as in the past and is called The Squeeze. Shortly after the Squeeze you will come to a Y intersection, you will want to go to the left. To the right is the end of Carnage Canyon, which is an incredibly difficult trail.
You will descend down an uneventful hill to the wash that has most of the obstacles of the trail. It's customary for people to take the trail to the right up the wash as this begins the loop portion of the trail. The wash is a lot of fun with many obstacles beside or on the trail that can be explored or avoided. The wash will also lead you to an obstacle that is called The Waterfall or Whale Rock. The Waterfall is considered to be the signature obstacle for the Chinaman Gulch trail and is the location where most photos are taken on the trail. This obstacle cannot be avoided but the easiest route is to the right, the middle has a slightly more difficult line and the left side should only be attempted by significantly modified vehicles.
After the Waterfall you will travel up the creek and encounter several significantly sized rocks or take a bypass to the right. There are not any significant obstacles on the trail until you encounter Double Whammy. A few years ago Double Whammy was a couple of rock fins that a slightly modified vehicle could climb with no problems. The erosion around the rocks has increased the size to the point where only very modified vehicles can climb the left side of the obstacle. If you try the right side of Double Whammy a couple of trees can come into play.
The last significant obstacle is the V Notch a couple of hundred yards after Double Whammy. After the V Notch most of the obstacles on the loop portion of the trail are significant drop offs on a hard turn.
The rest of the trail has several fun obstacles that will challenge even the most modified of vehicles but can be avoided or navigated by a vehicle with only slight modifications. Don't be so wrapped up in the obstacles that you forget to notice the view and take some photos at the top of the trail of Mt. Princeton and the Collegiate Peaks across the valley.
GPS Coordinates: 38°47'32.7"N 106°05'08.3"W