Blowout Pass/Summitville Colorado 4x4 Trails - Getting TherePosted in Features on May 1, 2002
The summit of Blowout Pass lies just above timberline between Sheep Mountain and Marble Mountain in south central Colorado. This area in Colorado is criss-crossed by many old roads that are worth exploring, and this old pass road is one of them. The road itself is fairly easy as it winds along Burning Springs Creek, with only a few rough places to keep your attention from the scenery. There can be many tree blow-downs along this road, and along the sideroads that branch away from it, so early-season visitors may want to bring a saw along to help them clear the trail of fallen trees.
Summitville is an old ghost town about three miles from the summit of Elwood Pass. It's a typical southern Colorado mining town from the 19th century. It was somewhat resurrected in the 1980s when the old mine's tailings were cyanide heap-leached to extract remaining trace ore. Unfortunately, this method was not well executed and the resulting cyanide-laced runoff killed 17 miles of the Alamosa River and a fork of the San Juan River. The EPA currently is cleaning up the site, so the old town does get quite a bit of traffic. Eight to 10 buildings still stand there, though none are safe to enter.
To get there, take Forest Road (FR) 330 south from Del Norte, Colorado, toward Summitville. This is a well-maintained road that should give you no trouble. About two miles past Summitville you'll reach a junction with FR 380. Head south toward Platoro Reservoir. Stick with FR 380 past the Elwood Pass turnoff, and past Stunner Campground, to FR 250, where you'll take the left fork and head east for about four miles to the cluster of cabins that is known as Jasper. Turn north on the Blowout Pass Road, being careful of children, dogs, and other surprises that inhabit the Jasper area during summertime. Stay on the main road as it heads between the cabins and past a small cemetery. There'll be a USDA Forest Service sign that will warn you that the road is not maintained for passenger-car travel. The road is rocky in spots, so it's not unheard-of to air down here.
The road runs steadily up the draw toward the summit, hugging the trees on the west side. This area does not get the high volume of visitors that other parts of Colorado get, so you likely will be on your own. The road is not difficult, and can be traversed by most stock SUVs with low-range and decent clearance. It can be wet, though, so conditions early in the season may be somewhat more challenging than they'll be later on in the summer. Once at the summit of the pass, there's a short run over to FR 329, another well-maintained road. This will junction with the same FR 330 that brought you in from Del Norte. Either take the right turn and head north on FR 330 or continue on out on FR 329, which becomes FR 332 just beyond the intersection, and eventually FR 360, which rejoins US 160 between Pagosa Springs and Del Norte.
Drive carefully, take along appropriate supplies and recovery gear, and remember to Tread Lightly!
Share Your Favorite Trip
Do you have a favorite trail or four-wheeling spot you'd like to share in this column with our readers? Just write down your impressions of the trail, along with all relevant information (e.g., where to find it, where to get info, degree of difficulty, historic or scenic sites along the way, and so on), and send your story, several color photos, and a legible map to: Getting There, Four Wheeler, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515. We'll pay $150 for every story we use in this column.
The facts presented in this column are, to the best of our knowledge, correct and accurate at the time of publication. However, because of our lengthy lead time, we recommend calling the proper authorities or local experts for confirmation before visiting. Please remember to Tread Lightly!