by Carl Bauer

 

The Buena Vista area is chock full of ATV opportunities. There’s the 4 Mile Area on the east side of the valley that is mostly high clearance 2WD roads, along with ATV trails and single track. This area is open nine to eleven months out of the year. Most is easy, but there are plenty of challenging areas if you look for them. On the west side of the valley there are miles of old mining roads and many passes over the Continental Divide. The historical significance is amazing with ghost towns and mining sites with many buildings still standing. These are mostly rocky 4WD roads on this side with road elevations reaching 13,700′. Most of this area is open from June through mid-November, but some passes may not open until early July. Both east and west sides offer incredible views and un-crowded roads and trails.

 

Six Pac Ride 

Rating: Difficult

  • Actually six passes, Hancock, Tomichi, Black Sage, Wauneta, Napoleon and Tin Cup. These are not that difficult but there is some exposure and a deep stream crossing. The difficult rating is primarily for the length of the ride (85 miles) and a steady (meaning not slow) pace that has to be maintained to complete this ride. This is one of the few guided rides. High critter, history and color factor.

 

Mosquito Pass

Rating: Moderate

  • This is the highest pass in the United States at over 13,000 ft. Prior to summiting you will go through some of the highest concentrations of old mines on the planet, with much of the infrastructure still standing. There isn’t a lot of color, there’s some exposure, and the critter factor is fairly low, but the history is very high.

 

 

Otto Mears Toll Road to Bonanza

Rating: Easy

  • This route has more historic value than most and very different mountain scenery. You’ll get up close and personal to several mine sites, many with buildings still standing. Lots of Aspen and this trail now makes a loop. A few side routes can be challenging.

 

Hancock/Tin Cup Loop

Rating: Easy to Moderate

  • This route is a scenic masterpiece with high mountain vistas, old mine sites, several ghost towns. You can ride right into the towns of Pitkin, Tin Cup, and Taylor Park and get lunch. It’s a full day’s ride.

 

Mt. Antero/Baldwin Lake

Rating: Moderate

  • This route will take you higher than any other on the Tour. The highest point is 13,700’ and the summit at 14,269’ is a short hike from there. 4WD is necessary for heavier machines and all will need a few ponies. You’ll visit 2 high mountain lakes and a couple of mines. Look around near the summit of Antero for aquamarine and quartz, minerals that are still mined today on active claims. A few aspen areas.

 

Iron Chest and Pomoroy Lakes 

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

  • These are two different routes very close together. Each is up and back, not heavily traveled and go above Timberline. Pomeroy Lakes are beautiful and rarely fished and Upper Pomeroy (a short walk) contains Arctic Grayling. Both have color and Iron Chest (named for the most obvious mine up there) has history.

 

Mineral Basin/Ptarmigan Lake

Rating: Easy to Moderate

  • This route begins at beautiful Cottonwood Lake and is not heavily traveled. It and all the side routes are up and back with critter sightings common and lots of beaver ponds. Ptarmigan Lake holds some big and hungry trout and Ptarmigan (Colorado’s unofficial state bird) hide in the surrounding rocks. Side trip Hope Gulch is a beautiful up and back route over a saddle looking down into the Chalk Creek drainage.

 

Twin Lakes/Lost Canyon

Rating: Easy

  • Two different routes that require trailering to each, but worth the effort. Aspen trees abound at Twin Lakes and the views from each are incredible. At the top of Lost Canyon you’ll stare right into the faces of Mt’s. Belford, Oxford, Missouri and Huron …14’ers all. At the Twin Lakes trail, you’ll visit old mines and mills with colorful rocks. From the top of Twin Lakes trail you can look across the valley into the famous California Gulch Mining District and Leadville.

 

4 Mile Area

Rating: Easy to Moderate

  • Named for the creek running through it, it’s one of two routes that are on the eastern side of the valley (Ruby Mtn. being the other). These are easy, high clearance roads going through Pinion Forests and high desert. The only moderate parts are on the ATV trail system. You’ll have panoramic views of the Sawatch Range across the valley. Critters here include Big Horns, deer, elk, bear and (rarely) mountain lion.

 

Ruby Mountain/Aspen Ridge

Rating: Easy to Difficult

  • The extreme sections are easy to avoid and the easy ones are loads of fun. New ATV trails cut through the Pinions, and Aspen Ridge in the fall will blow you over with color. Similar in terrain, views and critters to 4 Mile.

 

Check out the ATV Historic Color Run in September at www.coloradoatvtour.org. It’s a great time!

 

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