South San Juan Wilderness, Colorado

26 Jan 2014
Posted on Sunday, January 26 2014 By Anthony Whitt | 0 Comments

The Rio Grande National Forest in southern Colorado contains spectacular scenery! Grab a copy of the Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer (published by DeLorme) and prepare for travel on dirt roads deep into the mountain wilderness far away from the maddening crowds. 

This wonderful guide breaks down the confusing web of forest roads to make navigation easy. Unlike GPS systems, a paper map never fails and I've yet to be misled by a trusty map that folds out and doesn't need a switch to turn on.

I once rescued four anglers from Texas near the headwaters of the Conejos River, and at the edge of the South San Juan Wilderness. These worried men were totally lost and forty miles from the paved road they thought they were headed towards, thanks to their GPS. They were actually at the dead end of a dirt road with only fifteen minutes of daylight left. They were mighty happy to meet somebody from their home state with a dependable map to show them the way! I often wonder how their trip turned out over several high mountain passes and on unfamiliar mountain roads in the dark. 

Rivers rush through deep canyons and open meadows alongside forest service roads that deliver the angler to accessible trophy trout fishing. Spur roads lead high into the backcountry where camping, hiking and sightseeing are on par with national parks. Fall is a particularly rewarding time to visit. The color is straight from a Hollywood movie and has to be seen in person to believe.

 My advice is to get off the paved roads choked with traffic and explore the backcountry using the excellent information in the Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer. Look out for the wildlife and the occasional cow!