Loose in the La Platas
This ride stays for the most part in the aspen forest but gets into the subalpine fir and spruce forest in the higher elevations. Jersey Jim Lookout Tower was used for many years by the Forest Service to spot forest fires all across the western La Plata Mountains and Menefee and Mesa Verde. It is now out of commission except for use as a lodge of sorts, and it has a long waiting list of people who will pay to stay a night in the tower.
Most of the geology is obscured on this ride except for rock outcrops in Fish and Lost Creek Canyons. Transfer is situated on beds of upper Dakota Sandstone near the boundary with the Mancos Shale. As you drop into drainages, the fluvial sandstone of the Dakota is revealed and you drop farther in sections across slopes of the Morrison Formation. After climbing up out of Lost Canyon there is little to see because you are riding in the lower Mancos Shale that has been uplifted and covers an igneous core that outcrops at Burro Mountain to the north.
This loop is a long ride with a good deal of elevation, but it is a good introduction to the La Plata Mountains (see map).
The route heads north out of Transfer (elevation 8,910 feet; 2,715 meters) on Forest Service Road (FS) 561 through aspen forests.
In about 1 mile (1-1/2 kilometers) there is a junction with FS 561 taking off to the right and FS 560 to the left. Stay left and wind around, crossing Turkey Creek, Fish Creek, and Lost Canyon Creek.
At about 7-1/2 miles (12 kilometers) and the top of the north side of Lost Canyon, FS 560 ends at FS 556 (elevation 9,300 feet; 2,835 meters). Take a right here and climb on up to the east along the rim of Lost Canyon.
After about 5-1/2 miles (9 kilometers) you reach the end of FS 556 at the junction with FS 561 (elevation 10,061 feet; 3,066 meters). A left turn here will take you on up to Gold Run Trail and Windy Gap, and a right will take you back down to Transfer via Jersey Jim. To Transfer is mostly downhill, but watch for cars and cows on the curves, some of which have limited visibility.
© Article copyright Pruett Publishing
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication