Aspen Ridge

Johnson Village, Colorado (Chaffee County)
Last Updated: 09/30/2018
4.3/5 (4 reviews)
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 2-3
Length: 13 miles
Highest Elevation: 10269 feet
Duration: About 1 hour 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: South
Nearest Town: Johnson Village
Nearest Town w/ Services: Johnson Village
Official Road Name: 185
Management Agency: San Isabel National Forest
District: Salida Ranger District
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Highlight: Aspen Ridge

Aspen Ridge features open ranges, dense forests, and wide views. As the name implies, the 10,000ft elevation ridge is covered in Aspen trees. The Forest Service Road is generally a graded dirt road that travels in a north-south track. The road crosses broad meadows providing expansive views of the Collegiate Peaks. Despite rougher conditions at elevation, the entire road is easily navigable by a stock 4WD vehicle. Aspen Ridge is popular among ATV and motorcycle riders, mountain bikers, and equestrians who enjoy the wide open spaces. There's dispersed camping available along all segments of the road, and nearby towns of Nathrop, Johnson Village, Buena Vista, and Salida offer commercial campgrounds, motel lodging, and outdoor supplies.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (2-3)

Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6" depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.

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This Forest Service Road is generally a graded dirt road that travels in a north-south track. The northern segment begins at Bassam Park Road (FS Road 187) and crosses broad meadows providing expansive views of the Collegiate Peaks. Upon the ridge, the road condition is deteriorated but still easily navigable by a stock 4WD vehicle. Black soil, potholes, and exposed 12” diameter rocks characterize this portion of the road. Descending the southern portion of Aspen Ridge, you drive through a 520-acre parcel of State Trust Land aptly named—what else—Aspen Ridge. Continuing south toward Salida, the soil and vegetation changes to caliche rocks and juniper-type evergreens. The road surface is improved at the lower elevations. FS Road 185 terminates at the intersection of FS Road 175, approximately nine miles north of Salida.
There are free-range cattle along this road so be cautious

Seasonal Information

Spring:Aspen Ridge is wet and muddy due to snowmelt
Summer:Usually dry but may have potholes/mud puddles
Fall:Exceptional autumn colors, road is usually dry
Winter:May have snow present but it tends to melt within days of a snowstorm


1. Aspen Ridge Trailhead

Turn right onto FS Road 185 from Bassam Park Road (FS Road 187). The intersection is extremely well marked.

2. Intersection FS Road 185E (0.1 mi)

Stay straight and pass the intersection to FS Road 185E.

3. Intersection FS Road 185D (0.7 mi)

Continue straight past the intersection with FS Road 185D. This road is a connector with Bald Mountain Gulch.

4. Intersection FS Road 185C (1.7 mi)

Follow the curve to the right to stay on FS Road 185.

5. Intersection FS Road 185B (2.5 mi)

Turn right to continue on FS Road 185. The improved surface becomes FS 185B at this point. It continues to Elk Mountain Ranch (one mile) and dead-ends.

6. Camp Spur (3 mi)

Stay straight past the two-track camping spur.

7. Unauthorized Road (3.7 mi)

Continue straight past the unauthorized road to the right. Note the spectacular view in the third photo.

8. Cattle Guard (4 mi)

Proceed over the cattle guard.

9. Aspen Meadow (4.5 mi)

Follow the main road as it curves to the left around the meadow. Topographic maps indicate that there was once a trail here that concluded a loop from the ridge at higher elevation.

10. Ridge Top North (5 mi)

Stay on the main road; the spur to the right is the remnant of the trail (now closed) that formed a loop back to the meadow at WP 9.

11. Ridge Top South (6.5 mi)

Proceed straight across the cattle guard which marks the USFS Boundary. This is the top of the ridge, south end. From here you are traversing State Trust Land.

12. Seasonal Gate (8.1 mi)

Drive straight through the gate. This is the boundary re-entering National Forest land. The road going uphill to the left is not marked.

13. Intersection Unmarked Road (8.8 mi)

Turn left (east) at the T-intersection. FS Road 185 is signed in both directions, however the other road is not marked. It does appear on topographic maps as "4WD".

14. Intersection FS Road 185A (9.1 mi)

Stay right and downhill on FS Road 185.

15. Intersection FS Road 184 (11.5 mi)

Continue straight past the intersection. FS Road 184 goes east to the abandoned town of Turret.

16. Intersection FS Road 175 (13 mi)

The road curves to the right and forms a Y intersection with FS Road 175. This is the end of FS Road 185.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 38.773380, -105.968240

Starting Point: Fairplay

From Fairplay, take U.S. Highway 285 south and turn left on Chaffee County Road (CR) 307. Travel one mile and then turn left on FS Road 187, Bassam Park Road. Follow Bassam Park Road approximately six miles to the intersection for Aspen Ridge on the right. From Salida, as an alternative, Aspen Ridge Road can be traveled south-to-north. From U.S. Highway 50, turn north on "F" Street and drive slowly through the historic downtown area. Turn left on "West 1st" Street for just under one mile and watch for County Road 175 on the right (it is across from the new medical center). Follow CR 175 for about nine miles to the intersection of FS Road 185. There is a brown USFS sign that indicates Aspen Ridge/Turret Road.


There is no shortage of dispersed camping locations along Aspen Ridge, specifically at Waypoints 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, and 11. There are plenty more dispersed campsites on connecting and nearby roads such as Black Dumps, Castle Rock Gulch, Bald Mountain Gulch, and Mushroom Gulch. Ruby Mountain Campground is managed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife in nearby Nathrop, and there are commercial campgrounds and motel lodging in Johnson Village, Buena Vista, and Salida.
Camping: Aspen Ridge

Land Use Issues

Aspen Ridge is part of Pike-San Isabel National Forest, and as such is part of the 2011 Lawsuit where a coalition of conservation and recreation groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over what they say is the illegal addition of 500 miles of motorized roads and trails. A settlement was reached in late 2015 which requires the U.S. Forest Service to re-evaluate the roads and create a new travel management plan. Over the next year, some roads will be partially or completely closed while this evaluation proceeds over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV community voices their interests on this issue. If we do nothing, those 500 miles will be shutdown. Contact the local Ranger District offices and let them know why the area is important to you.

Writer Information

Tracy Barker

Mapping Crew - Colorado
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Tracy is an outdoor enthusiast originally from north Alabama. Tracy's family moved to central Utah when he was a child, and subsequently to southern Utah. These family moves established a precedent, of sorts, as Tracy has lived in numerous states over the past three decades. Tracy is now settling down in Colorado Springs. His favorite activities are family trail rides and camping with small groups. This, too, is a precedent started many years ago in dad's pickup truck, followed by Tracy's first 4x4 acquisition, a 1975 Ford Bronco (in 1991). Tracy aspires to climb some of Colorado's venerable 14'ers while traveling some of the notable and not-so-well-known 4x4 trails in the Centennial State. He's excited about contributing to Trails Offroad because the site is committed to meet a critical 4-wheel drive enthusiast requirement--current and accurate trail data.


Questions & Answers (1)

Q: I heard that the Four Mile Area and Aspen Ridge near Buena Vista, Colorado has been closed to camping. Is this true?
–Judy (06/05/2017)
A: There were lots of folks camping in Four Mile (including myself) last week. I also saw a couple in Aspen Ridge too.
–Neal (10/03/2018)
A: I camped in the Fourmile area North of 24 hiwaylast week. Mostly off of 311and 373. Saw no camping closures or any signs on the kiosks.
–Larry (06/23/2017)
A: I cannot find evidence to support what you've heard; the Pike and San Isabel National Forest website makes no mention of current closures or camping prohibitions (none which I can see). I was in the area last weekend, specifically on several nearby (FR 300 and FR 186) or connected roads (FR 187)--I saw no new signage indicating constraints or prohibitions.
–Tracy Barker (06/05/2017)

Trail Reviews (6)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I drove Aspen Ridge with a group from 14erFest (a big street party that brings trail user groups together and promotes cooperation among them--see for details). We stopped at Waypoint 10 for lunch and pictures. Trail conditions are clear and dry. The Autumn colors were probably beyond peak--I estimate that peak week occurred this year in early September. It was fun, nonetheless.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Fun, easy trip that would be great during fall colors. Most could do this in 2wd, but I did use some low range in my stock truck just for the lower gearing and the need for less braking. It was a great day as part of the Buena Vista 14erfest.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I might be the odd duck on this site but I attempted this trail in a '17 Subaru Crosstrek @ stock ride height. Had one decent undercarriage scrape, otherwise was doable with the right line choices. Dry and in good shape, will definitely test your nerves in a crossover/suv.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Drove Aspen Ridge from Salida, South to north. Road is dry and in good shape. This is a good road for beginners to get some experience with no risk of damage. Aspen Ridge has great views of the Collegiate Peaks, and is a connector to several fun 4x4 roads in the area.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I drove Aspen Ridge on Sunday, October 1st with a group from 14erFest in Buena Vista. Some areas were brilliant foliage, and other were past prime. Our group had a great time from start to finish.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I had a guest in from Maine who knows his leaves during the fall season, so I figured a trail named "Aspen Ridge" would be a good spot to go view the Colorado foliage. I was probably a week earlier for peak but the trail did not disappoint.