BLM8479 shoulder summit(u): Gypsum Hills

When driving west on I70 from Denver for the first time - over Vail Pass - emerging onto the western slope, the change of the landscape is a real spectacle. The snowy continental divide is now behind on the horizon. Now the road is in a deep dry trough of light colored, muddled badland rocks. Much of the surrounding wild high plateaus near Gypsum and Eagle are in the hands of large private land holders. But there are a few access roads left, that still allow access for anybody to marvel at the unique landscape of the Colorado River Valley, as it makes the transition from a high alpine stream to a canyon carving monster. The I70 exit in Gypsum provides access to several unnamed summits and shoulder summits in the Gypsum Hills. It always amazes me to see these hills free of snow when Cottonwood Pass to the south of Gypsum is still ( or already ) covered in deep snow.

A slightly higher altitude is reached by expanding the loop between points 3 and 4 to the east. But this option does not add much in the scenery department. The highest point on that loop is a shoulder point on a loop adjoining the Castle Peak WSA, which is a completely different ride.
 


click on profile for more detail
01.(6330ft,mile00) START-END EAST: I70 exit to Gypsum
02.(7200ft,mile04) go right at this major intersection
03.(7320ft,mile07) stay left
04.(7690ft,mile08) right goes to higher area adjoining Castle Peak WSA. But profile continues left.
05.(7730ft,mile09) profile continues right at this signed intersection. Left follows Agnew Gulch and rejoins CR71.
06.(7810ft,mile10) TOP: point of highest altitude
07.(7410ft,mile11) bottom of Greenhorn Gulch
08.(7780ft,mile11) intermediate top
09.(6420ft,mile16) route joins paved Colorado River Road. Continue left
10.(6160ft,mile29) START-END WEST: Dotsero

Approaches

From East. The profile starts at the Gypsum I70 exit. CR51, a wide dirt road, suitable for heavy industrial traffic winds its way into the dry hills to the north, complete with guard rails on a rough medalled surface. The reason for the road width soon becomes apparent, the Eagle Gypsum mine. Past that  road conditions are less predictable. During my last visit the surface was a hard smooth clay, eroded into deep gullies and troughs, which is really quite pleasant to ride and helps keep motorized traffic down. The profiled route diverts from CR51 at a large intersection that has a map posted, but no road numbers or identifying location. Going right the route contours near the edge of the hills, passes a few marked and unmarked turnoffs to the right, goes past a car graveyard that predates the Gypsum suburban style developments (picture below). Meanwhile the Sawatch Range makes an appearance on the south eastern horizon and Mount Scorpris points its snowy triangle above the juniper hills further west. After a short rocky stretch, another intersection forces a choice between heading direction Castle Peak, or as the profile does, left towards the Colorado River. The next intersection is signed, and the route follows the Colorado River option. The point of highest altitude is reached after a short descent and a short steep climb.



From West. The approach is described in a downward direction. A series of straight stretches follow fenceline boundaries, marking a wilderness study area and further down a vegetation study area. The straight trajectory of the road makes for many steep up and downs. The full height of the Flattops plateau on the other side of the Colorado River becomes apparent, with its snow capped ledges below the clouds and the brittle grey badland hills or solid red layer rocks, draping down to the river. BLM 8479 emerges onto pavement approximately across from the driveway of a farm adressed as 12799 Colorado River Road. The turnoff is an unlocked fence gate labeled with a BLM road number and "public access through private land" sign. The profile follows Colorado River Road back to Dotsero.

 

Dayride with this point as the highest summit:

PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED

BLM8479 Gypsum Hills s(u):  A 9 shaped ride, starting at the I70 Hanging Lake exit, going to Gypsum, crossing the shoulder summit as described and returning via Dotsero and the Glenwood Canyon bicycle path measured 53 miles with 3600ft of climbing in 5:0 hours (m3:07.05.13).