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Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

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Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir

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  • Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain to the southeast, and Cimarron Ridge running south to the northeast.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • The road winding through aspen groves and approaching Owl Creek Pass.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Aerial view of the road.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Aerial view of the road.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Sunset from the Stealey Mountain Trailhead.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Chimney Rock at sunset.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Sunset from the trail near Vista Point.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Chimney Rock at sunset.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Rain that did not quite make it to the ground at sunset from the Vista Point.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain at sunset.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Fall road between Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Hikers on Stealey Mountail Trail N. 219.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Three autumn leaves at sunset.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • The Milky Way peeks through behind Chimney Rock.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Star trails behind Chimney Rock.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Clouds roll through behind Chimney Rock before the storm (which left 4 inches of snow the next morning, in late September).- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Aerial view of Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain with carpets of aspen to the west.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Aspen shine among snow-covered pine.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Frigid mornings can make for beautiful macro photo opportunities.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Red fox just after sunrise near Silver Jack Reservoir.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Moisture and precipitation provide a great environment for moss and lichen.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Aerial view of Silver Jack Reservoir surrounded by ridges and hillsides covered in aspen.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • View of aspen and rocky ridges to the southeast of Silver Jack Reservoir.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Looking southwest from near Silver Jack Reservoir.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • Layers of aspen and balanced rocks on ridges after a snow storm near Silver Jack Reservoir.- Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
  • - Owls Creek Pass + Silver Jack Reservoir
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Fantastic view of Chimney Rock and other peaks. Wonderful fall colors.
Cons: 
Moderate traffic.
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Region:
San Juan Mountains, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

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Colorado is known as a wonderful fall destination, and aspen turn to gold in the high country in mid-September to mid-October. In particular, the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado offer fantastic opportunities to see fall colors while hiking, biking, swimming, or just wandering. The area around Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir is a special location with countless hillsides of golden aspen at the base of rocky peaks, beautiful hiking trails, and wonderful vistas just from the road.

The road starts off of US-550 just north of the town of Ridgway and south of Ridgway State Park. It is a dirt road that is generally accessible to all vehicles –though when wet or snowy, it is a good idea to have a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle. The road has moderate traffic and can be muddy in spots. As you approach the pass, the most prominent peaks in the Cimarron Range are Chimney Rock (11,781 feet) and Courthouse Mountain (12,152 feet). The first mandatory stop is the Vista Point, which is 8.8 miles from US-550. It is a great spot to watch the sunset. A short walk along the trail southwest from the parking lot will lead you to a spot where there are oak groves and golden aspen in the foreground, spruce and fir closer to the mountains, and the rocky peaks in the background.

Another 5 miles up the road is the trailhead to Stealey Mountain Trail No. 219, which provides access to Courthouse Mountain from the west and connects to other trails. The trail winds through aspen groves, and it is open not only to hikers but to mountain bikers, horses, and motorized recreational vehicles. 

Two miles up the road is True Grit Meadow, which offers great views of Chimney Rock and is named after John Wayne’s famous movie, a portion of which was filmed in that meadow.  This is also a good spot to camp; though there are no facilities, dispersed camping is allowed throughout this area.

Sixteen miles from US-550 is Owl Creek Pass (10,120 feet).  The road going south (860A) from there requires a high-clearance vehicle. It parallels the West Fork Cimarron River, and it offers access to some good sites to camp and also to the trail to Courthouse Mountain. The alternative is to proceed from Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Reservoir on road 860, which follows the West Fork Cimarron River going north. Along the way there are good vistas of aspen-covered hillsides and rocky outcrops.

Silver Jack Reservoir is 9 miles from Owl Creek Pass. There are plenty of spots for primitive camping around the north end of the reservoir along East Fork Cimarron River. Other places to camp a bit farther north include Silver Jack, Beaver Lake, and Big Cimarron campgrounds. From the reservoir there are fantastic vistas of aspen and peaks on both the east (including High Mesa, 11,540 feet) and west (Cimarron Ridge South, 11,526 feet). Hikes include High Mesa and Windy Point to the east and Lou Creek Pass to the west.

Cows range free along the road, so drive slowly and be careful.  Further, as in any other high country roads in Colorado, weather can change rapidly and be unpredictable. Snowstorms are not uncommon in late September to early October when fall colors peak in this area. Cell phone reception is spotty at best, so you can get the local weather forecast by tuning to FM 99.1.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

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(32 within a 30 mile radius)

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