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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
01.(5300ft,mile00) 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 to Ut46
14.(7560ft,mile41) route joins Ut46, and continues left.
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 summit.

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 paved comfort.

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)

Extended Tours

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.