Rio Grande Rockies Tour - Colorado Scenic Drives
Located in the Rio Grande National Forest, this tour is designed for those times when a day in the car sounds pretty good. It's a long tour, but those willing to spend the time can revel in some beautiful scenery as well as see some interesting wildlife. This is an excellent tour for viewing elk and deer because of the amount of forage in the area. Large amounts of forage are due to logging that opened up the area for young saplings and grass.
Mileage: 46 miles
Time: 2 to 4 hours
The tour begins on Pinos Creek Road, which is on the West end of Del Norte, Co. on the South side of Hwy. 160. The tour ends in the town of South Fork, Co.
The entire tour comprises 3 roads, forest roads #330, 332, and 360. There are numerous logging roads in the area, but the main road is the best maintained and easy to distinguish from the others. Pinos Creek Rd. is #330. About 18 miles up Rd. 330, you will come to an area called the "chicken foot" because of its 3-toed appearance. There are three roads leading off into different directions from nearly the same point. The tour follows Rd. 332, the road to the right of the others called the Crystal Lakes Road. Follow this road until you hit the fork that either goes to Poage Lake or to Beaver Creek Reservoir, Rd. 360. Turn right on Rd. 360 toward the reservoir. This road will lead you all the way down into the town of South Fork and back onto Hwy. 160.
As you drive through the middle of the loop, you will notice extensive logging operations that occurred in the area Those operations took place from 1981 to 1984 in order to stop an infestation of the spruce beetle. Spruce beetles get under the bark and destroy the cambium layer of the tree, killing it within a few years.
A severe wind storm in 1978 knocked over many trees and created an ideal situation for a beetle infestation. Spruce beetles, already present in the area in small numbers, dramatically spread.
The area was logged heavily to halt the spread of the beetles and to prevent extensive aesthetic and economic losses had the area been left unmanaged. It happened that beetle numbers did decline, but it is not known whether it was from the logging or from a natural phenomenon, such as a parasite killing off the beetles. The area is now being left to revegetate and return to its original condition.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication