North Creek Pass
(aka Abajo Loop Road Summit)
In a similar manner that international tourists, standing
at Grand Overlook in Canyonlands National Park, observe
that the Abajo Mountains are lower than the La Sal
Mountains, early Spanish explorers did too. But naming
them the "low mountains" (abajo means low) may
not exactly have hit the nail on the head. It is true that
Abajo Peak (11360ft) is close to 1500ft lower than Mount
Peale (12721ft) in the La Sals. But then - the Spaniards
couldn't know that the yet to be built Abajo Loop Road
would someday reach almost two thousand feet above the La
Sal Loop Road (8320ft).
Admittedly this comparison is really between apples and
oranges, since the La Sal Loop Road is paved (at least by
Utah standards) and the Abajo Loop Road is clearly not.
But even comparing the Abaho Loop road with the highest
good dirt road in the La Sals - this would be Geyser Pass
at 10540ft - North Creek Pass still is 800ft higher.
click on profile for more detail
|1.(6000ft,mile00) START-END SOUTH:
Recapture Dam on US191, north of Blanding
2.(6170ft,mile03) profile turns right onto Pinyon
Ridge Road, and right onto Blue Mountain Road,
shortly after that
3.(7810ft,mile14) left goes to Causeway. Profile
4.(9690ft,mile23) intermediate summit on Jackson
5.(9140ft,mile24) intermediate low point
6.(10312ft,mile28) TOP: North Creek Pass
7.(8500ft,mile31) profile turns right onto paved
Ut49 to Monticello
8.(7060ft,mile36) START-END NORTH: Monticello, jct
Ut49 - US191
From South. In order to illustrate a loop ride, I
chose a point on US191 north of Blanding, where it crosses the
Recapture Reservoir. US191 south of Blanding actually starts
from a lower elevation. To start the ride you have to get onto
Blue Mountain Road in some manner. This is long long ridge
that gradually creeps up a scenic shoulder of Mount Linnaeus,
the lower western peak, of the two dominant Abajo Peaks.
Pavement ends where the road crosses into the Manti La Sal
National Forest. As the road contours around to the east, and
dips through drainages, there are good framed views of Mount
Linnaeus and its stratified rocks. Crossing Jackson Ridge to
the east of this peak, gives all appearances of being the
major pass crossing of the day. This lower crossing at point 4
above also has the best views and most of the picture below
are taken near that area.. Signs inform that Blanding is
22miles away, while Monticello is only 14 miles distant.
Furthermore there is a Skyline Trailhead (a very popular name
in Utah) 1.5 miles to the west.
However the highest point of the ride on North Creek Pass
is still ahead, and the next 14 miles ahead to Monticello will
probably take longer than the 22miles back to Blanding,
especially if snow on the road makes travel difficult. If
there are any snowy patches at all in the shade on the short
descent to the low point between the two summits, there will
be much more snow to come. As you start to gain altitude
again, this time between Twin Peaks and Horsehead Peak, you
can see the size of the climb ahead by looking at the
apparently straight diagonal that cuts across Horsehead Peak.
The path between Twin Peaks and Horseheah Peak is a named pass
too. The trailhead sign is clearly labeled and calls it Spring
Creek Pass. It is closed to bicycles from Oct11 to May15.
Chances are there is snow on it during that time anyway. This
second climb seems to have much less fall color than the
intial climb to Jackson Ridge. The view from the top is
limited to Jackson Ridge.
From North. (described downwards) If there is a
patch of ice on top, it is a sign of things to come. The road
for a large part stays in the forest on the bottom of the west
facing slope, that gets noticeably much colder air. Snow melt
takes much longer, and the snow free east facing slope is
tantalizingly close in the sunshine, just out of the shade so
it seems. Under these conditions, hitting pavement may seem
like hitting gold. When this happens, downtown Monticello and
its dining and shopping attractions (pizza, Subway sandwiches
or a prepackaged morsel from the Blue Mountain foodstore) are
only 4 miles away, and they are straight as an arrow and all
downhill, with great distant views of the western most
lonesome cones of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED
North Creek Pass , US191 Monticello - Blanding s(u) :
Blue Mountain Road > North Creek Pass > Monticello >
US191 Monticello - Blanding s(u) > Recapture Reservoir >
Pinyon Ridge Road > Blue Mountain Road > back to
starting point: 56.4miles with 5970ft of climbing in 5:31hours
(VDO MC1.0 m3:11.10.16)
Notes: partial snow on upper northern descent, and a
headwind on US191 coming back, otherwise a great October day.