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Blowout Pass 

The eastern San Juan Mountains do not reveal their size and splendor until you get into them. From US160 between Del Norte and South Fork they appear more like a shapeless forest in the distance, topped by a few high rock outcrops. Once you get into them their size becomes apparent. Blowout Pass is a remote pass in this area.

click on profile for more detail
1.(7900ft,mile00) START-END NORTH: jct US160 - FR14, just west of Del Norte
2.(9830ft,mile14) START-END NORTH ALTERNATE: Elk Park, jct with Shady Creek Trail on right
3.(10900ft,mile17) profile stays left on FR329
4.(11040ft,mile29) Burro Creek jeep road joins from left
5.(10980ft,mile29) Bennet Creek Trail joins from left. Road. Take right uphill
6.(11780ft,mile31) TOP: Blowout  Pass, also jct with TR700
7.(9170ft,mile34) START-END SOUTH ALTERNATE: route goes left down FR250 towards Jasper at this T
8.(8500ft,mile47) below spillway of Terrace Reservoir
9.(8320ft,mile49) START-END SOUTH: FR250 crosses Alamosa river easth of Terrace Reservoir

From South. The profile shows the most obvious way to approach Blowout Pass, FR14 (Pinos Creek Rd) leaving from US160 just west of Del Norte. But there are many other options. The road is initially paved and becomes heavily graveled (as of June/10), before it crosses into the Rio Grande National Forest.

Initially the Pinos Creek Road does follow Pinos Creek. But it soon climbs the ridge to the east. It stays in heavy aspen forest, periodically opening views onto Del Norte Peak and the mountains ahead. Grayback Mountain can be identified by the small transmission tower on top. When turning left onto FR329 a long contour around the hills finally leads to the start of the steep pass road. Burro Creek Road joins here. This is a more direct but less used road, and the map would suggest probably a better cycling approach. (I have not tried this yet) The road switches back over rough terrain and gains the pass at just above treeline. The view on the other side is worth every effort to climb it.

From North. (also described upwards) From just north of La Jara Co371 heads west. It turns into a dirt road that follows some of the northern most headwaters of the Rio Grande River up Alamosa Creek. Gradually the road actually starts to climb into a plateau that can hardly be recognized as such, from the distance.

The profile starts at Terrace Reservoir, where the climbing becomes noticeable. Rolling terrain through a mixture of pleasant forested canyon and private ranches, also a nice free campground, leads to the collection of houses in the woods, named Jasper. Apparently this community has its roots as a mining town, but today it looks more like a collection of modern vacation houses with a special affinity for solar power.


Bennett Peak (13203ft) from about 500ft below summit on south side

The turnoff up Blowout Pass is marked with a very small sign. In spite of this the road made me wonder if I just was riding up some small communal driveway in the woods. But sure enough - it continued. The road climbs very steeply on a rough rocky surface in the woods. I walked much of it. This way I had enough energy left to at least ride part of the last two miles, much of which have a smoother surface, and are also not quite as steep. That was my impression, but the elevation profile seems to average it out.

Finally the last few hundred feet of the climb are above treeline. A trail up to the right to the top of Bennett Peak (13203ft) looks like it would give a very far reaching view. The most scenic way to continue from here on a bicycle would be the TR700 Dry Creek summit. But instead the profile makes Blowout Pass the highest point and descends from here.

A Day on a tour


(<Stunner Pass|Carnero Pass>) La Jara > Co371 west > up FR250 along Alamosa river > Blowout Pass > down FR330 > down FR12 > Del Norte: 70 miles. (mech Odo: m1.87.09.11).
Notes: the previous day had no passes: Platoro > La Jara. Previous day to that: Pagosa Springs > Elwood Pass > Stunner Pass > Platoro. Next day: Del Norte > Carnero Pass > Saguache. Co371 was unpaved at the time.

A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: FR330 Greyback Mtn s(u)


Historical Notes

Today Blowout Pass seems like the absolutely most cumbersome way to get from Summitville to del Norte. Yet - in the late 1800s, the road was used to move ore from the mining center to del Norte. Later it was even used for freighting.