TR898 Shady Creek(sh)
The Shady Creek Trail in the Del Norte area is open to
small motorized vehicles, hikers and mountain bikers. One
might expect a traffic jam under these regulations, but on
my traversal of the route, on a Saturday in June, I met no
other trail users on the TR898 portion of the profile
below. The trail contains nice bikable stretches as well
as plenty of walking stretches. The summit portion is
easily bikable, and dirt roads can be used to lead around
the walking portions. Older maps (such as my Rio Grande
National Forest map from the 80s ) contain errors and miss
several dirt roads and trails. Even with up to date maps,
orientation can be a challenge with so many roads and
trails, and few straight East-West, North-South landmarks,
which Colorado travelers are used to.
FR358 reaches a higher altitude than this trail, while
traversing round Del Norte Peak. So this summit is a
shoulder summit, and has a (sh) behind it.
click on profile for more detail
|01.(8150ft,mile00) START-END WEST:
jct Del Norte Peak Road (FR345) - US160, east of Del
02.(9220ft,mile04) route stays right onto FR350
03.(10900ft,mile08) Profile turns onto FR358 on
left. Profile between here and point 4 is an
approximaton. Turn off right onto TR899.
05.(11160ft,mile11) approximate location, jct with
FR345. This route crosses the road and continues on
06.(9100ft,mile15) trail reaches Pinos Creek and
07.(9209ft,mile16) route crosses Pinos Creek.
08.(9830ft,mile17) trails joins FR14 and turns left
towards Del Norte
09.(8040ft,mile27) START-END EAST ALTERNATE: jct
FR14 -FR14A. FR14A is a short cut towards west.
10.(7900ft,mile29) START-END EAST: jct FR14 -US160,
west of Del Norte.
From West. The turnoff from US160 onto FR345 is
signed as Del Norte Peak Road. During the initial turns of the
road, its namesake can be seen ahead, framed by green trees
blowing in the wind. It is a rounded mountain with its real
proportions difficult to discern. The profile above turns
right onto FR350 at the first major fork. But the left also
offers alternative routes to get to the summit. The dirt road
leads through a firewood area, then becomes a bit rockier,
then smoother, steeper then more shallow, all of which is well
ridable. The initial turnoff to TR898 is signed. It appears to
stay straight, while FR350 continues in a right turn. This
portion of TR898 is rocky, and difficult if at all ridable.
But soon the bicycle pusher finds himself climbing up an
embankment to meet another dirt road FR358. The elevation
profile skips this portion of the trail, staying on FR350,
turning off directly onto FR358.
The next portion of TR898 is a short distance south (left
turn) on FR358. The turnoff is signed again, but once the road
passes directly beneath the face of Del Norte Peak, the
turnoff was missed. The elevation profile of this section is
only an approximation, since these roads and trails are not on
my topo maps. This is the summit portion of the trail. It is
shallow, easily ridable, and pretty moist with late runoff.
The route stays in the trees. But immediately following the
summit an open meadow off to the right side of the trail shows
a wide drainage, opening up towards the San Luis Valley and
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains shining in the distance.
From East. (described downwards). The trail crosses
a gate and makes many turns, after entering into a dense
forest. A fairly steep section next to the subalpine summit
meadow soon delivers the rider onto another dirt road, which
comes as a big surprise when you don't have up to date maps.
Apparently this is the original FR345 from the starting point.
And if that is not enough choices, there are also two single
track trails leading downhill Castle Rock Creek Trail, and
later merging back onto the trail described here, TR898 Shady
Staying on TR898 Shady Creek all the way, a long strenuous
descent leads parallel to the creek through alternating forest
and open meadows, over quickly ridable sections and others too
steep and rocky, and also over one short but not easily
forgettable uphill, when the route crosses from the south to
the north side of the creek.
Pinos Creek is reached, the route turns upstream. This may
come as a bad surprise. But thank goodness, this late in the
day, the route does not head back into the fathomless
wilderness, but crosses Pinos Creek after a while, only to
climb back up the other side. The trail now looks more heavily
traveled and the next section climbs quite steeply before
merging onto FR14 without prior visual notice.
From here on its a lazy, scenic roll with eyes fixed onto
curving landforms that foreground the hazy Sangre de Cristo
Mountains and San Luis Valley. During my June ride the south
wind was so strong, that I covered the distance of the day so
far, again in less than an hour. Looking back as you approach
Del Norte, it hardly seems possible that the curvy, subdued
skyline without any hint of jaggedness could have delivered
such a scenic and strenuous ride.
Picture locations: top to bottom: 1:
TR898 on west side after having crossed FR345 while descending
along Shady Creek. 2: view of San Luis Valley from meadow
adjacent to summit. 3. summit meadow
TR898 Shady Creek s(u): campsite on lower portion of
Del Norte Peak rd (FR345) > FR350 > initial turnoff onto
TR898 > crossing FR345 to pick up TR898 again > TR898
Shady Creek s(u) > down TR898 Shady Creek > Pinos Creek
crossing > FR14 towards Del Norte > FR14A west >
US160 west > lower portion of Del Norte Peak rd back to
starting point: 51 miles with 5200ft of climbing in 6:17 hours
(VDO MC1.0 m3:10.6.20).
Notes: includes numerous miles of wrong turnoffs on
FR345 and then retracing the route.