FR129 Geyser Pass s(u)
The La Sal Mountains serve as orientation landmark
for an entire region. Geyser Pass is the most prominent
pass in these mountains, a gap in the middle of cone like
peaks, rounded on top, but falling off steeply. The pass
can be easily seen from an enormous distance, ranging from
points east in Colorado's Uncompaghre Plateau, to points
west in the "island in the sky plateau" west of
Moab. . The La Sal Mountains gleam in the distance,
hinting at another world that is much higher and cooler
than the plateaus it is visible from. The reverse is not
true. The pass is tree covered and farther views are
located lower on the approaches. When climbing the pass on
a bicycle, another aspect of the topography becomes
obvious. These peaks sit on a big plateau. The first big
impression as well as the first big effort is involved in
climbing these sedimentary dessert steps to the table on
which the peaks sit.
Geyser Pass has three principal approaches, that meet at
the summit. The ones from the east ( from Paradox ) and
west ( from Moab ) make good approach routes for cycling.
The approach from the south ( Ut46 or La Sal )
contains sections near the top, that are a wide dirt road
with bad sandy washboard. It goes over an altitude that is
slightly higher than Geyser Pass itself. It is more easily
traversed in a downward direction. But in order to come up
with a loop ride that can be cycled in a day the southern
approach becomes attractive.
Eastern - Southern ( Paradox - Ut46) Approaches
click on profile for more detail
START-END EAST-NORTH: Paradox
02.(7260ft,mile07) junction with dirt road on
left. Profile continues straight
03.(7630ft,mile11) Buckeye Reservoir
04.(8350ft,mle15) junction with dirt road on left.
Profile continues straight
05.(8360ft,mile15) dirt road on left goes to
Canopy Gap. Profile continues straight
06.(8580ft,mile17) stay right at fork
07.(8950ft,mile19) go left up much less traveled
route. This turn off is easy to miss
08.(10538ft,mile25) Geyser Pass. Profile continues
south towards La Sal. Straight goes to Moab.
09.(10470ft,mile25) stay straight
10.(10700ft,mile28) TOP: point of highest altitude
11.(8110ft,mile36) dirt road on left goes to
Canopy Gap. Profile continues right.
12.(7800ft,mile39) dirt road on right goes to La
Sal Pass. Profile takes left fork.
13.(7740ft,mile39) profile takes short cut on left
14.(7560ft,mile41) route joins Ut46, and continues
15.(5710ft,mile53) Ut46 leaves La Sal Creek and
climbs over hogback towards Paradox Valley.
16.(6220ft,mile55) top of hogback
17.(5350ft,mile59) profile goes left to Paradox
18.(5300ft,mile60) START-END EAST-SOUTH: Paradox
(same as point 1)
From East. The climb begins in the prototypical
Colorado Plateau Valley: cliffs, straight as an arrow and as
far as the eye can see, and barely a creek that could have
carved all this in sight. The paved climb up FR371 on the west
side of town must be one of the nicest paved climbs in the
state of Colorado, if it wasn't for one thing: the surface
turns to dirt just after reaching the edge of the plateau. The
route winds through a dense forest, curving northwards to
Buckeye Reservoir. Continuing towards Geyser Pass the route
becomes noticeably less traveled. Glimpses of the range ahead
through the dense forest are rare until the road enters Pine
Flats. No trespassing signs at the entrance of this hunting
reserve try to give the impression that this is not a public
road, which it is. The route towards the pass continues along
the first left fork after entering the reserve. The next large
junction offers a quick way back to the starting point over
Canopy Gap. Go straight for Geyser Pass. After passing a
hunting camp and turning northwards again, comes the most
tricky part of the route. A much less traveled rocky track
heads steeply off the main dirt road, heading towards the
peaks. This is not the road marked as Geyser Creek Road on
National Forest maps, but a track to the south. Geyser Creek
Road is a prominent forest road that turns towards the peaks a
few miles later, ending at a locked gate to the hunting
reserve. The steep rock track to the pass becomes much less
steep and rocky, soon after the turnoff. It traverses
extensive open aspen groves with much up and down. A tiny hut
in the San Juan hut system is passed in conjunction with a
lake, shortly before reaching the pass. The pass is at the
junction of the three outlined approaches. As of Sept/05 there
is no summit sign. It looked like it may have just been
removed, maybe to be replaced. But the designation
"Geyser Pass" is used in signs along all the upper
approaches. On this approach however, there are no signs until
past the San Juan hut (Sept/05).
All three pictures on this page are taken on this approach.
The second shows the Paradox Valley during the first climb.
No3 taken in the vicinity before Buckeye Reservoir. No2 shows
the last effort stretch before reaching the hut near the
From West. The route from the west begins at the
southern end of Spanish Valley, Moab area. The well used dirt
road climbs Bromley Ridge.
From South. Of the three approaches, this road has
been modified the most to make it suitable for automobiles,
which means a broad dusty washboard in places (Sept/05).
It's described in a downward direction. The broad road
traverses around Mount Mellenthin and Mount Peale, often at a
point where the almost football shaped peaks rise the most
steeply. The road has every kind of grade imaginable, steep
downhills, then nearly level, a short uphill. Several
junctions along the way have signs pointing to secondary
destinations, along roads which are just as heavily used as
the route back into the valley. Especially signs, stating that
I was on the route to "Dark Canyon" made me wonder
if I had missed a turnoff somewhere. Having a map ready here
is more that just a thing that is nice to have. It turns out I
was on the right route. The long extended roll down the pass
finally happens on the more gentle aspen covered southern
portion of the plateau. As of 2011 the route is a fast dirt
road and not the wide washboard surface that I experienced
during earlier years. In any coase hardtop is near. One more
left turn through a ragged settlement of mobile homes and Ut46
is ready to carry the cyclist back to the start in smooth
The profile includes the rest of Ut46 back to Paradox. At
the end waits a surprise, a 500 ft climb over Nyswinger Mesa
back to Paradox.
A loop ride starting in Paradox, going up the eastern
approach and returning over the southern approach measured 71
miles with 8000 feet of climbing in 7:25 hours (m3:05.09.22).
This included over 10 miles of getting lost and exploring the
area around point 7.
Another loop beginning at the "La Sal Loop Road"
turnoff on the western side, going over Geyser Pass and then
returning over La Sal Pass measured 66 miles (m1:91.09.01)
The San Juan Hut system is often used in an extended tour
over the pass. Usually two days are used to traverse the
summit over the eastern and western approaches. The first day
connects the huts in Paradox and the one before the summit.
The second day goes over the summit down to Moab.