The Swamp Creek area offers a plethora of choices for offroading, camping, and shooting. Make no mistake, there are often RVs, generators, shooting, and people riding OHVs. For a drunken weekend in the hills the area is perfect.
Forest Road 171 is just south of Red Feather Lakes and offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Geographically, the area in which the 171 network of roads is located is in the Swamp Creek drainage. FR 171 is actually a loop back towards the main road from which it starts, County Road 69/Manhattan Road. 171 also has numerous spurs and branches, indicated by letters and hence the “network” designation. All spurs are accessible by the parent, nonlettered 171 road, but not all spurs provide access to other spurs (though some do).
This whole area offers a plethora of choices for offroading, camping, and shooting. Hiking is comparatively limited but for a drunken weekend in the hills this area is perfect. You are less than 15 minutes from the town of Red Feather Lakes, which has reliable cell service, two general stores, a sporting goods store, restaurants, a coffee shop, and a hardware store.
This offroad trail is a fun way to get into the 171 network and off the main roads sooner. It isn’t really that technical, but there are several sections which might prove tricky for lower clearance vehicles and/or require four wheel drive. There are several creek crossings, as well as a portion of the trail which runs through Sevenmile Creek. Note: there is another “Sevenmile Creek Road” in Chaffee County, which is completely different, obviously.
The vast expanse that is the Arkansas River Valley is also notably cozy. On the south end, you have the town of Salida. In the middle, you have Buena Vista. At Buena Vista, highway 24 splits northbound towards Leadville, Minturn and I-70, while U.S. 285 heads south to Salida, Alamosa, and ultimately through New Mexico and Texas. North of Buena Vista, U.S. 24 and the valley climbs in elevation towards Leadville.
At the top of Storm Mountain, you’ve got a panoramic view of all major metropolitan areas of Northern Colorado. And to the west you have a panoramic view of the Front Range mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Amazing views, 30 minutes from town, with a steep and rocky road in between.
At the top of Storm Mountain, you’ve got a panoramic view of the northern Front Range. You can see Loveland, Fort Collins, Wellington, Longmont, and beyond. Storm Mountain is accessible via U.S. 34 and Drake. Storm Mountain Rd. starts as a paved, steep, switchbacked road shortly after the turn towards Glen Haven from Drake. The first few miles are residential and lined by private property. Then you get into national forest land.
This was a winter time snowshoeing trip, in which we followed the old road towards Hancock pass.
St. Elmo has a ton of history, in fact that is its main attraction today. It was originally a mining town and a stop for the Denver, South Park, and Pacific railway. At its peak in the late 1890’s, there were five hotels, several saloons and dance halls, a telegraph office, post office, general store, a school, and a local newspaper.
The town of Gateway, CO is unique because it’s nestled less than 10 miles from the Colorado-Utah border. It is the location of the eastern termini of two backcountry 4×4 routes to Moab, UT. It is about 50 miles southwest of Grand Junction. Gateway is on Colorado State Highway 141 (SH-141), roughly where it meets the Dolores River, on the northwest side of the Uncompaghre Plateau.
Gateway is a classic small town, with small town vibes. Although the town contains a couple tourist attractions, it hardly feels like a tourist trap. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to encounter a lot of traffic at all along SH-141. There is a general store (pictured above), with gas pumps, restrooms, drinks and snacks. During the summer time, there is also a food truck that operates in the parking lot of the general store. Most will make a pit-stop at the general store before continuing their journey.
Detouring through Collbran, CO, in order to avoid Interstate 70 just confirms even more that the choosing the side route often leads to a greater journey, and is certainly worth it if you’re not in a hurry. This is a sensible side route if you’re traveling to Grand Junction (hint: ultimately to Moab) and not in a rush. It doesn’t tack on a lot of extra mileage (unless you go over the Grand Mesa), but it does tack on an additional 20-30 minutes compared to the same route via I-70. The first time around doing this, I decided to take a cruise over the Grand Mesa (in November, as you do), which was interesting and got a little squirrelly upon encountering a blizzard and a foot or so of snow. The Grand Mesa could be a trip in its own right and something warranting its own post, but I’m including a little bit on it since it’s worth mentioning and I wouldn’t have gone up there to begin with if I didn’t go through Collbran.