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FR890 Round Mountain(sh)

The southern end of the Sawatch Range looks much different than the chain of 14ers, that most people think of first, when hearing the name "Sawatch". Here, north of the town "Saquache" (different spelling, but same origin), many parts of the range resembles a piece of Swiss cheese. All the countless holes were dug by miners.

This loop over Round Mtn is designated as an ATV trail. The east-1 side is still relatively ridable. But much of the east-2 side is at best walkable. The main attraction for me is an interesting view point at the summit. The top is really the only point above tree line along this route. But you can get to higher, scenically magnificent points from there, if there is energy left.

1.(mile00.0,8000ft) START-END EAST-1: jct US285 - CRU56, north of Villa Grove
2.(14.9mile,9450ft) Bonanza
3.(16.1mile,9650ft) profile turns right up steep track, but next tunroff up Squirrel Creek is also an option
4.(20.6mile,11780ft) FR890 Round Mtn(sh)
5.(27.0mile,8580ft)profile turns right onto US285, coming down from Poncha Pass
6.(34.4mile,8110ft)START-END EAST-2: jct US285 - CRNN56 up Peterson Creek


From West.
The profile starts just north of Villa Grove and follows paved LL56 into what's left of the Sawatch Range at its northern end. As the road surface turns into wide dirt, and now heads north, you can see that there is at least one substantial mountain left in this part of the Sawatch Range: Mount Antora is the largest of three large humps on an imaginary camel (which has three humps, as is customary for some imaginary camels) - straight ahead. The road enters Bonanza, a small collection of widely varying housing. A whole variety of forest road turnoffs follows, and they are all well signed. Two of them work for the summit described here: first FR890, and the previous turn off up FR892 can also be used. For this option a left at the first mine traverses over to FR890.

Much of this approach is ridable, even if I walked more than 50 percent. The double track trail seems to aim for a high bare lip on a ridge, that is just barely visible above the trees: Burnt Mountain. But then at the first mine the road changes direction by 90 degrees and traverses north, now much flatter and easily ridable. Then it switches to the east again climbing steeply. When it begins to traverse in a northerly direction a second time, the top is near.

The top is a meadow at just about treeline. The northern Sangre de Cristo Range becomes visible. But the better views are a short walk (or maybe even ride) away, a few hundred feet north from a small knoll, that is surrounded by mining debris: Round Mountain. From the top the 360 degree panorama takes in: Mount Antora, Mount Ouray, then the northern end of the 14ers in the Sawatch Range, the Arkansas Valley, Poncha Pass, and the Sangre de Cristo Range stretching to the Blanca Massif in the south. Completing the 360 degree view, there is a also a close by green ridge with a trail on it, directly to the south. You can get a bike up there too, but it does involve a lot of walking. I can't find this trail on any maps (but I call it  Burnt Mountain summit -still working on that page).

From East. (described downwards) The trail quickly descends into trees and the views are history. There are many, very rough and rocky sections on the descend, that are much too steep to ride. At one point the path just swoops down in regular 180 degree turns, without regard for how steep the road becomes - very steep. Switchbacks would definitely been easier to negotiate, but I guess not to build. The path again passes several mines.

The road emerges into a clearing quite a distance below Poncha Pass, passing between large groups of aspen trees. The last several miles are a smooth dirt surface. The point, where the Alder Gulch Road (as FR890 is called on this side) turns off US285 is not signed on the highway. But once you go up the small inconspicuous path for several hundred feet, a sign states "FR890 Bonanza : 'several miles' ".

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


(<FR611 Alder Creek(sh) | >)
FR890 Round Mountain, additional out and back: Forest boundary on NN56 > down NN56 > US285 south > LL56 west > Bonanza > up FR892 > up FR890 > FR890 Round Mountain(sh) > down FR890 > US285 south > NN56 west back to starting point: 43.3miles with 4370ft of climbing in 5:24hrs (VDO MC1.0 m5:14.10.5)
Notes: rear tube exploded on the way down, due to a gash in the tire. Otherwise a wonderful and amazingly warm, cloudless day in October


FR890 Round Mountain (sh)
Highest Point: 11780ft
East-1 Approach:
climb over distance
jct US285 - CRU56, north of Villa Grove (8000ft)
3780ft 20+1/2 ~200ft
turnoff near Squirrel Creek (9650ft)
4+1/2 ~100ft
East-2  Approach:

jct: US285 - CRNN56 up Peterson Creek (8580ft)
3200ft 7+1/2  
jct with US285 (8110ft)