Johnson Village, Colorado (Chaffee) Technical Rating: 2-3
Last Updated: 10-01-2017
Bald Mountain Gulch, Bald Mountain Loop, Black Dumps, Castle Rock Gulch, Fourmile Area: The Castles
San Isabel National Forest/Salida Ranger District
Aspen Ridge Highlights
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.
Technical rating: (2-3) Easy
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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Directions to Trailhead
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.
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.
1: Aspen Ridge Trailhead (0.0mi)
Turn right onto FS Road 185 from Bassam Park Road (FS Road 187). The intersection is extremely well marked.
3: Intersection FS Road 185D (0.7mi)
Continue straight past the intersection with FS Road 185D. This road is a connector with Bald Mountain Gulch.
5: Intersection FS Road 185B (2.5mi)
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.
7: Unauthorized Road (3.7mi)
Continue straight past the unauthorized road to the right. Note the spectacular view in the third photo.
9: Aspen Meadow (4.5mi)
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 (5.0mi)
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 (6.5mi)
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 (8.1mi)
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 (8.8mi)
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".
15: Intersection FS Road 184 (11.5mi)
Continue straight past the intersection. FS Road 184 goes east to the abandoned town of Turret.
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.
Camping and Lodging
There is no shortage of dispersed camping locations along the trail and plenty more within the Fourmile Area. 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.
Questions & Answers
Offroaded on 10-01-2017
Low Temperature: 45° F
High Temperature: 60° F
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.
Offroaded on 09-17-2017
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.