(Last Updated On: October 11, 2015)
Yes, I realize that I used a grammatically incorrect double negative in the title. But I kept saying that to myself every time I stopped to grab my camera and shoot more photos, even though I’ve been on the trail a number of times at this point. That’s the type of trail that segment 23 of the Colorado Trail is, however. Even though I know what’s around every corner, I get excited about seeing what’s around every corner anyway. Even though I know I’ve taken almost the same photo on a previous trip, “I can’t not take another photo”.
For the uninitiated, Cataract Ridge is a segment of the CO trail that is nearly entirely above treeline, east of Silverton, south of Lake City, and west of Creede. In other words, it traverses the heart of the San Juans, Colorado’s largest mountain range, and certainly one of the most stunning as well. While there are many ways to ride it, from thru-biking the CT to running a massive shuttle, I prefer heading up Lost Trail and descending West Pole for a giant loop.
Lost trail is a tough doubletrack climb, but then the fun starts on the CT. The first couple miles of the CT have, as far as I can tell, almost a 100% chance of a moose siting, and this trip was no different.
I’ll let the photos do the talking. The trail winds from one basin to another, with jaw dropping views around every corner. Hopefully the upcoming El Nino winter buries this area in snow this winter, and I’ll make a return visit with the skis. Tom Runcie:
Love the wall of mountains (Jones, Niagara, American and Handies) behind Jordan:
Another example of how vast the views on Cataract Ridge are- check out Sneffels and Potosi in the distance:
As is so often the case when I ride Cataract Ridge, we reached the end of the West Pole Creek trail where it intersects the Stony Pass road in the fading twilight. By the time we got to the car and back to the highway, we were left with a choice- make a beeline for Creede, 10 miles away in the wrong direction, and hope we get there in time to get dinner, or accept our fate and head through Lake City. We chose Creede, and got to Kip’s Grill at 9:02. I love Kip’s, but the employees barely even acknowledged our existence before telling us we were 2 minutes too late. Luckily for us, a bar was open in Lake City.
It might be hard to tell in the photo above, but this area of the San Juans have been decimated by spruce beetles. Seemingly every tree is dead and brown, much like parts of northern Colorado that saw widespread pine beetle infestations. The difference in just 5 years or so is startling. Closer to the start of this loop, near the Rio Grande reservoir, a recent forest fire shows how much worse the situation can get, so hopefully Colorado stays nice and wet for the foreseeable future.
Rides like Cataract ridge require lots of fuel- check out the Feed: