UTV Trip on Colorado’s Alpine Loop

| August 14, 2009 | 0 Comments
Rhino on the Alpine Loop, Colorado

Rhino on the Alpine Loop, Colorado

By Kevin McKenzie, DuneChasers.com

When its too hot to ride at our favorite Sand Dunes, we like to travel to higher elevations.

This years trip to the Alpine Loop in Colorado certainly fit the bill. Located in the northern San Juan Mountains just north of Durango, this 65 mile tour of some of North America’s most scenic country can be viewed from the comfort of your own vehicle; in our case – our Rhino!  The main loop took us by too many old mines, mining structures, and mining equipment to count. So if your an old western mining buff, this is your place.

RZR S on the Alpine Loop just below Engineer Pass

RZR S on the Alpine Loop just below Engineer Pass

If you have the time, you will also find 100’s of miles of side trails ranging from jeep size width down to motorcycle width. Many hiking-only trails branch off of these trails as well. Being from California, we were quite surprised, albiet pleasantly surprised, that such a place like this still exists.

We stayed at the Castle Lakes Campground near Lake City – castlelakes.com. As far as I know, this is the only RV campground with full hookups, located directly on the loop, where you can ride directly from camp to the trails. For the Toyhauler owner, this is key. GPS Coordinates For Castle Lakes are N 37 54.585, W 107 20.767 (Google Maps)

Rhino winching an ATV

Rhino winching an ATV

We wasted no time in seeing how the high elevations effected our carburated toys. Camp was at 9,170 ft. and we chose the Wager Gulch trail that started about a mile away  to test them out. The Rhino began to bog a little around the 11,000 ft mark but simply removing the airbox lid made all the difference. We rode all week like this up to 12,800 ft with no problems. Of course, the EFI’d RZR’s had no problems as well!

The weather up here is very unpredictable. On some days we left camp with blue skies and 80 degree weather and were later met with snow showers and thunderstorms. So be prepared!

Consequently, the melted snow kept the dust down and provided a little mud to play in. At one point, one of the ATV’s got stuck pretty good. So the Rhino and my trusty Viper Max winch came to the rescue and pulled it out with ease.

20ft Snow Drift after the pass has been plowed

20ft Snow Drift after the pass has been plowed

The scenery up here was incredble and the wildlife was abundant, that is all except the Human variety. In early June, we had the trails just about to ourselves because the snow is usaully too deep to plow at the higher elevations. Thus keeping the crowds at bay until later in the month. The picture above shows one of the few passes that were open and judging by the height of this Rhino, I’m estimating 20 feet of snow at this point.

Although popular with the Jeep crowd, I highly recommend exploring these trails by sidexside. We rented a jeep one day but it just cant beat the smoother ride and open air cockpit of a UTV. The only thing that would make this place better would be to make UTV’s street legal like Utah has done. This would allow you to travel into towns like Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, & Lake City and give them some business. I’m hoping that someday, towns like this will wake up to this economic opportunity and pass local ordinances making this a reality. Until then, we’ll just have to look down on them from a slightly different angle.

Looking down on Silverton Colorado

Looking down on Silverton Colorado

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Category: Trail Rides

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