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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 Norte.
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.
04.(11380ft,mile11) TOP
05.(11160ft,mile11) approximate location, jct with FR345. This route crosses the road and continues on TR898
06.(9100ft,mile15) trail reaches Pinos Creek and turns upstream
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 Creek.

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.

Once 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

Dayride with this point as highest summit

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.