FR359 summit(u): Eastern San Juan Mtns
Seen from US160 between South Fork and Del Norte, the
Eastern San Juan Mtns don't show themselves from their most
interesting side. That's okay, the majority of people just
want to drive the road anyway. The mountains on the south
side of the highway give the appearance of a large lumpy
loaf of bread. Traveling over this summit shows off a more
interesting side. There are peaks on top of them hills.
Granted, they are rounded too. But the panorama of the
isolated La Garita Peaks also awaits. Most of this area is
open to motorized travel, no wilderness here, not since the
various gold silver and medal rushes and busts. But the
mountains survived, and now -paradoxically- there are so
many roads that traffic is actually very light. This makes a
great mountain biking loop.
click on profile for more detail
START-END EAST: jct Del Norte Peak Road (FR345) -
US160, east of Del Norte.
02.(9220ft,mile03) route stays right onto FR350
03.(11053ft,mile09) This profile stays right.
04.(11410ft,mile10) FR350 shoulder summit
05.(11090ft,mile11) road on right goes down Cross
Creek. This is the direct approach to FR350 summit(u)
06.(11480ft,mile13) TOP: FR359 summit(u).
07.(10910ft,mile14) jct with FR332. Left goes to
Crystal Lakes. This profile stays right.
08.(10450ft,mile16) Profile turns right down FR360
along Beaver Creek.
09.(9330ft,mile32) Road along Cross Creek joins from
right. Connects to point 5.
10.(8260ft,mile29) START-END WEST: jct US160 - Beaver
Creek Rd, just west of South Fork.
From East. The turnoff from US160 up Del Norte
Peak Road is signed. The wide dirt road goes through a burn
area, with a single rounded mountain visible above slopes of
trees. This route will stay well to the right of rounded Del
Norte Peak. At the next fork, the route turns onto signed FR350
uphill. The road soon looses its gravel and enters a firewood
cutting area. Staying in the forest and narrowing still further,
the road stays steep, not too rocky and rideable. The first time
any mountains can be glimpsed through the trees is on top of the
FR350 summit (this is only an intermediate summit on this ride).
An out and back trail leaves from the forested top.
FR350 crosses a grazing divide and descends to the junction with
the Cross Creek Road. Now the route follows FR359. Once on top
of the FR359 summit(u), the panarorama of the high La Garita
Peaks reveals itself in all its splendor. The range contains one
peak higher than 14000ft, It requires a long day hike to reach
it, but it is not a steep climb.
From West. (described downwards) For the FR359
mountain biker the best part of the ride starts. A short steep
descend leads to a series of alpine meadows, FR359 traverses
them, like a ribbon that has been thrown out over a carpet of
wild flowers (if you ride in June). There are fewer rocks on
this section of the trail. After that high point, FR359 merges
onto well traveled FR332 from Crystal Lakes, then graveled
FR360, which is a long roll back down to South Fork. Once Beaver
Creek Reservoir is reached, camping is only possible in
developed pay sites. The last few miles before South Fork are
FR359 San Juan Mtns s(u) , FR350 s(u): campsite on Del
Norte Peak Road > up FR345 > FR350 s(u) > FR359 San
Juan Mtns s(u) > down FR332 > down FR360 > South Fork
> US160 east > back to starting point on del Norte Peak
Road: 38 miles with 3900ft of climbing in 4:2hours (VDO MC1.0
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED
Pictures: top panel clockwise, starting top left: Del
Norte Peak from lower Del Norte Peak Rd., jct FR359 - FR332
between point 6 and 7, FR359 west of summit, near FR350
middle picture: La Garita Mtns from FR359 summit, bottom pic:
west of FR359 summit