Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Exploring Colorado's mountain passes on the BMW

We've been riding around Colorado for the past few days, discovering new roads that we haven't been on before and riding favorite roads for a second time. We started off heading east from Pagosa Springs on US 160 East, riding past green fields and ranches bordered by the mountains.

Soon we started climbing up in the San Juan mountains, heading up Wolf Creek Pass

The steep road winds and twists up to the top of the Pass at 10,857' where we crossed the Continental Divide for the first time today before we descended down the eastern slope past the Wolf Creek ski area.

In South Fork we turned north onto Colorado 149, the first time we've been on this road and what a find! 149 is the Silver Thread scenic byway that traverses remote parts of the state that were once important in silver mining, and today is an outdoor lover's paradise. The Rio Grande River flows along the highway, which twists and turns to match the river's path.

We followed the Rio Grande through the mountains to the small town of Creede, which in the late 1800's was home to over 10,000 people due to the booming silver mining in the area.

As we continued north past Creede, we stopped at a scenic overlook and discovered we were looking at the headwaters of the Rio Grande where it starts at an elevation of over 13,000' in the San Juan mountains before it travels 1,885 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

A couple also stopped at the overlook told us about a waterfall just a couple of miles further north, so we turned off the highway to see North Clear Creek Falls, a 100+ foot waterfall formed by volcanic activity 27 million years ago.

Back on the highway, we continued north, climbing up Spring Creek Pass and crossing the Continental Divide for the second time today at 10,889' before we descended down toward Lake City.

The mountains weren't done with us yet as we quickly ascended up the even higher Slumgullion Pass at 11,530'. 

The descent down the north side of Slumgullion Pass at times is a 9% grade, and the sweeping turns made this section a fantastic motorcycle ride. We descended down into Lake City at 8,661'. Much of the town is part of a historic district with many of the original homes from mining days restored to promote tourism. We stopped for lunch at the Lake City Cafe and enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip.

149 continues north along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and through Independence Gulch.

149 ends at US 50, just past the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

We turned east onto US 50, our final leg for the day. We rode through Gunnison, then retraced our route from 3 days ago up and over Monarch Pass - at 11,312' our last crossing of the Continental Divide for the day.

We're spending the night in Salida and planning an earlier start tomorrow with a goal of riding to the top of Pike's Peak - 14,115'.

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