Long Canyon is a fun way to the Island in the Sky mesa from Moab. A moderate offroad route just by virtue of the very top end, Long Canyon offers brilliant views of the La Sal Mountains framed by a canyon setting found nowhere else in the world than the Utah canyonlands.
Long Canyon is just another example of the gems you can find, simply by looking at a map and taking the road less traveled.
Access to Long Canyon Rd. from Moab is simple; north out of town on the main drag, just turn west (left) on Utah Route 279, signed as Potash. Route 279 follows the north bank of the Colorado River, as it winds through the canyon during the first segment. Long Canyon will be a right turn from UT-279, just after the Jug Handle Arch. There is parking to hike to the arch at the beginning of Long Canyon Rd., signed.
They call it Aspen Ridge because it’s a ridge that’s covered in aspen trees. Who would’ve guessed? Aspen Ridge is traversed by Forest Road 185, which provides a fun little offroad route from the Fourmile Area/U.S. 285/24 to Salida. Aspen Ridge is passable by stock SUVs in dry conditions, and features open meadows, dense forests, old mines, wide views of the Collegiate Peaks and plenty of dispersed campsites.
For a several miles you’re pretty much driving through a forest consisting exclusively of aspen trees. Unfortunately, when we did this trail, it was too late in the fall for the leaves to still be the magnificent yellow/orange/red they become. But it was still a fun trail and certainly a place on the bucket list to return to next September during the peak color season for aspens. It’s a great trail to run right after doing Lenhardy Cutoff or Sevenmile Creek Rd., just to the north in the Fourmile Recreation Area.
Quite the fun offroad route from U.S. 285/24 in South Park to Buena Vista, the Lenhardy Cutoff offers plenty of adventure for all types of activities. Lenhardy Cutoff is simply another example of a road which exists solely to support the industries of the youthful western state of Colorado. Late season adventures brought me here, and we ran the trail from east to west after the nearby Sevenmile Creek Road.
Lenhardy Cutoff is one of two offroad routes from U.S. Highways 24/285 to Buena Vista, and is overall not technical, although a difficult section near the eastern end could prove troublesome for some vehicles.
A garden-variety high mountain offroad pass in Colorado, Weston Pass provides a convenient shortcut between Leadville and Fairplay. Weston Pass is just south of the infamous Mosquito Pass, another high mountain offroad pass. Mosquito pass similarly connects Leadville to Fairplay to the north, yet is much steeper and requires a more well-equipped vehicle than Weston Pass.
Labor Day weekend is the official unofficial end of summer. It’s also the only three day weekend most people get before warm days start running out.
The itinerary for the weekend was packed, starting with an impromptu offroad trip out of Boulder, a return to Fort Collins to gear up, and an 11th hour drive to the Red Feather Lakes area for a two night camping trip. This post is somewhat novel for this blog; here I’m featuring a few never-before-featured areas, as well as some familiar areas that have been featured before.
Switzerland Trail, Left Hand Park Reservoir, the Peak-to-Peak Highway
Out of Boulder Canyon/highway 119, there are plenty of old roads to explore. Switzerland Trail is accessible via Sugarloaf Rd and Sugarloaf Mountain Rd, less than ten miles from Boulder up the canyon. Sugarloaf Rd climbs steeply up from highway 119 in the canyon, and is paved. Sugarloaf Rd mainly provides access for residents along it, but Sugarloaf Mountain Rd branches off to the north and provides access to public lands, the Switzerland Trail, and other opportunities.
Salt Cabin Park Rd. is a nice little route through northern Pingree Park just south of the Poudre River. It is a loop which starts and ends along Crown Point Rd. (Forest Road 139). Just a lowly forest road, meandering its way up a hill then back down. There are some nice dispersed campsites, and excellent views of West White Pine Mountain. The Stormy Peaks are visible, as well as Crown Point.
OTodaTodToday, Old Flowers Road is simply another forest access road, and alternate (offroad) route from Stove Prairie & Rist Canyon to Pingree Park. Old Flowers Road actually consists of two parts, East Old Flowers, between Stove Prairie and Pingree Park, and West Old Flowers, from Pingree to the the trailhead for Flowers Trail, a hiking trail.
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.