One of the most glorious Autumn views in Colorado is the San Juan Mountains from Dallas Divide, a mountain pass above the ranching and tourist town of Ridgway (that”s how it”s spelled). Extensive stands of Aspen trees in vibrant yellow and orange grow in the prairies below the tall mountain peaks. The San Juan Mountains visible from the divide range from 13 to 14,000′ in elevation. The are the remnant of the edge of a massive super volcano that erupted millions of years ago from a giant Caldera as large as the area in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. All the rock in the area is volcanic, the volcanism pushed up deposits of gold, and silver – on the other side of the mountains are many mines from the 19th century, most all of which are played out and inactive, leaving many unimproved dirt roads accessing spectacular scenic backcountry areas and trailheads. This is Jeep country – you can rent one in Ouray up the road from Ridgway and drive on the old mining roads with 1,000″ drop offs on the side. Not for the faint hearted, but worth it to avoid backpacking to reach beautiful alpine lakes and wildflowers. Attention must be paid to weather forecasts in Autumn in the San Juans, which is usually the last week of September extending through the first 10 days of October. Early snow can block access to most of the higher elevations unless a quick warming spell or an Indian Summer arrives. Most backcountry travel is done from the first week of July when the heavy snows melt on the dirt roads high on the passes.. A heavy Winter can delay the opening of many roads to travel as all it takes is one short section of deep, solid snow on the road that hasn’t melted and can’t be plowed off. So you park your rig and walk!
- Ancient Tree on