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FR413 Benchmark Lookout

The main attraction of this loop is the out and back summit from the top of the loop. It leads to a remote fire tower lookout over western Colorado plateaus and cliffs. The other magnificent spots on this ride are at the start in the Dolores Canyon area. In between it's hard work riding on gravel, through forest and pleasant plateau country.

1.(00.0mile,6540ft) START-END EAST:bridge over Dolores at Bradfield Recreation Area
2.(11.8mile,8210ft)profile turns hard left from FR521 onto FR514
3.(14.3mile,8320ft)intermediate high point
4.(19.6mile,8530ft)TOP:jct FR514-FR240,turnoff to Benchmark Lookout
5.(22.3mile,8410ft)profile turns left onto FR514
6.(36.5mile,6670ft) START-END EAST-2: profile rejoins FR514, a short distance above the starting point at point 1.


Approaches

From South.
Leaving from a campground, at the Lone Dome (not Cone) state wildlife area, with much peace and quiet, the road crosses the Dolores river. The mighty canyon carving stream is little more than a big creek at this point, and the gash in the earth is already impressive. The road climbs the south side of the canyon complex in long shallow ramps. The road splits into three possibilities. This option follows the middle option on FR521. What follows is a long hard grind on dirt and gravel, climbing up a plateau that looks like a plain from a bicycle seat. You don't know why you are working hard, but you do know that you are working hard. After the initial canyon rim views, the road enters the forest, and this could be in Michigan somewhere.

At a shallow high point, you are back in Colorado. Lone Cone Peak and the western San Juan Ranges appear in spectacular fashion, like sitting on a table top, that is only sparsely forested. At the next junction ( with puzzling destinations marked on the sign: Slater Y) the profile  turns left, and the surface improves considerably - less washboard, less gravel, more hard surface to get a grip on. I think you could call this section prime gravel riding. To the north a parade of foregrounds, consisting of cliffs and rock monuments, competes to complement Lone Cone Peak in the distance.

Later low hills block the view and the scenery consists of verdant range land fading into the distance. After a short decent, a considerable climb leads to a summit point, right at the turnoff to the one way out and back to Benchmark Lookout


From West. (described downwards). A few mysterious curves seem to lead along land boundaries, so as to afford maximum grazing peace for the handful of cattle up here in this ultimately scenic pasture. Then - an actual road sign, the first one on this trip, naming landmarks I could understand, partially. Dolores River 20 miles left, Black Snag Spring 3 miles straight. The Dolores River is what I want. It is mostly a fast descent on a straight decent gravel road. The road homes in on Narraguinap Canyon, a tributary of the Dolores from the other side.


Sidetrip to FR493 Benchmark Lookout(ow): The first two miles are smooth gravel. Past then the rocks make me thing that a mountain bike is more appropriate. The lookout appears in view at regular intervals, not that much higher, and getting slowly closer. All the greater is the surprise about the magnificence of the 360 degree view from the summit, from Little Gypsum Valley, to Lone Cone to Ute Mountain, the La Sal Range in Utah, various ranges of the San Juan Mountains and everything in between. A short spur before the fire lookout leads to another equally good vantage point.


1.(00.0mile,6540ft) START-END EAST:bridge over Dolores at Bradfield Recreation Area
2.(11.8mile,8210ft)profile turns hard left from FR521 onto FR514
3.(14.3mile,8320ft)intermediate high point
4.(19.6mile,8530ft)jct FR514-FR240,turnoff to Benchmark Lookout
5.(22.7mile,9240ft)TOP: Benchmark Lookout(ow)




Ride with this point as highest summit


COMPLETELY UNPAVED

( < Kennebec Pass(ow) | Dolores Canyon Overlook(ow) > )

FR413 Benchmark Lookout s(u) , additional out and back : short distance above Dolores Bridge on FR521 > FR521 east > FR514 north <> out and back to end of FR493 Benchmark Lookout(ow) > FR514 east > FR504 south > jct FR504-FR521 <> out and  back to Dolores bridge >. back to starting point on FR521: 45.4miles with 3620ft of climbing in 5:17hrs (garmin etrex30 m3:19.9.24).

Slideshow of the one way summit



cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow