In a previous version of this
page, I wanted to call these slopes metamorphosed
rainbows ... a colorful light vision on stone.
These days a less flowery style is called for.
Still ... streaks of red oxide run in straight
lines down slopes, complementing jagged ridge
outlines in the background. This part of the San
Juan mountains have the color of the canyons, that
start to dominate the landscape west of here. Even
the Weemenuchi Wilderness cannot match this area
in sheer rainbow technicolor quality. But then
again, this area could never match that wilderness
in pristine quality. The same color that makes
this area so visually exciting, attracted more
practically oriented citizens, miners looking for
gold. As a result there are just as many streaks
of red oxide running off old tailing waste piles
as from natural slopes.
these mining areas, characterized by big mountains
and big mine tailings, is centered around
appropriately named Red Mountain Pass
between Silverton and Ouray. Corkscrew Pass offers
one of the better vantage points on this area. The
proximity of three unpaved passes, California Pass
and Corkscrew Pass, make a trek across any number
of them a prime objective for a dayride that stays
above treeline for a substantial time. The Hurricane Pass
page contains more pictures from such a ride.
Corkscrew Pass is high, short and steep in equal
proportions, the very shortness effectively making
it yet steeper. Unlike the historically
significant unpaved passes in the San Juans like Cinnamon Pass
, Engineer Pass
others, this is not an endurance event, but
more of a strength contest, strength that is
required to push the bike up a good portion of the
very steep route.
Unlike the other two passes in this area,
Corkscrew Pass is not marked by a sign on top.
Neither is it marked on topo or National Forest
maps. It is referred to by name on a sign on the
eastern approach. "Passes of Colorado" also
identifies the pass and sources it to "local
click on profile for more detail
|1.START-END SOUTH: downtown
2.profile turns left at American Tunnel
3.TOP: Corkscrew Pass, 12217ft
4.START-END NORTH: jct CR20-US550 in
Ironton Park, north of Red Mountain Pass
From Nort. (via Corkscrew Gulch) The
dirtroad trail to the pass leaves US550 (the Red
Mountain Pass road) in the ghost town of Ironton
Park. The route is signed as county road 20. The
initial climb up Corkscrew Gulch is smooth and
ridable. The second part of the climb starts at a
bowl that contains a meltwater lake during the
spring. At this point the climb becomes too steep
to ride, or maybe it just seems like it to me
after the initial effort. The top is in rocky
tundra with incredible views in three directions,
Red Mountain No.3 to the west, vertical peaks to
the south and the trace of Hurricane Pass ahead
towards the north.
The double track heading towards Red Mtn No3 ends
after a while, but not before delivering some
incredible views. Some of the pictures are from
this short out and back detour. The map apparently
shows a trail connection with Red Mtn No 3 (?).
From South: (also described upwards) The
county road from the east end of Silverton is a
wide and well surfaced, unpaved highway. At the
American Tunnel Mine the track becomes etremely
steep with scenery to match. An alternative second
route stays lower in the valley and further west.
At this junction Cement Creek Rd with
the route coming down from Corkscrew
Pass, used to stand a sign naming Corkscrew Pass.
On my last visit it had been removed. The view of
vertical Tower and Dome Mountains from starting
about here and points up, make this one of my
favorite scenic spots in the San Juan Mountains.
Apparently others like it too, because a well
constructed out house has been erected in the
vicinity, detracting somewhat from the natural
qualities. However if out houses are needed, they
need to be built, and built it was.
cLiCk on image , arrows ,
or thumbnails to advance slideshow
Dayride with this point as
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED:
( < Red Mountain No3
Rd s(u) | )
Corkscrew Pass , Red Mountain Pass
, additional out and back: a short distance
north of jct US550 to Red Mtn Pass - South Mineral
Creek Rd > US550 south > SIlverton with
sightseeing detours <> out and back up CR33
to a turnaround point where it turns up the
mountain >> CR110 north > Corkscrew Pass
> CR20A north > UAS550 south > Red
Mountain Pass > back to starting point on
US550: 33.3miles with 4610ft of climbing in
5:16hrs (garmin etrex30 m5:21.7.6)
Notes: a broken rear brake rotor blocked wheel
during decent from Corkscrew Pass. An entire
jeep convoy behind me checked one by one to see
if i was okay. Finished ride with one brake.
A Dayride with this point as intermediate
summit is on page: California
Cycling. An early mountain biking guide,
first published in 1987 listed the Corkscrew Gulch
and Cement Creek approaches and as being
suitable for mountain biking in its appendix,
without describing them any further (William L.
Stoehr's: Bicycling the Backcountry).