Attractions in Del Norte Area

 

Bishop Rock Area – BLM

Elevation: 8,280 ft.

Difficulty:  Intermediate to Difficult

Distance: 40 acres of open area

Open most of the year.  In Monte Vista, at the corner of US Highway 160 and Colorado State Highway 15 (aka Broadway), turn south and drive for 2.5 miles to Rio Grande County Road 28; then turn west and drive for 7.7 miles; turn right into the Bishop Rock Parking area; at this point are the No Motorized Vehicles signs; off load and ride on down the two track to the “domed rock area.”  The BLM’s Bishop Rock Area is unmatched anywhere in the State of Colorado.  It contains a 40-acre slick-rock non-motorized open play area for bikers and hikers. For advanced riders, this freeform area of flowing rocks creates something similar to a natural skate park. This playground, designated as such by the BLM, has all the features you could ever want to test your skill level.  Map available at www.delnortetrails.org

 

Elephant Rocks  

From the intersection of US 160 and CO 112 in the center of Del Norte, head north on CO 112 for three miles; turn left (north) on Rio Grande CR 33.  The Elephant Rocks begin within less than a mile on the west side of the road.  Elephant Rocks are a weathered remnant of the Fish Canyon tuff, dating from the late Oligocene period roughly 28 million years ago. This is a five-mile long formation of monolithic boulders. An interesting mixture of short grass prairie and foothill shrub land vegetation occurs on the site. This area is full of amazing scenery and is great for exploring.  You might see Rock Wrens, Green-tailed Towhees, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Bushtits and Pinyon Jays, Cassin’s Kingbirds, pronghorn, deer, marmots, lizards, snakes, chipmunks, and rock squirrels.

 

Limekiln Area – BLM connecting to USFS

Elevation: 7,900

Difficulty:  Easy to Intermediate

Distance: 9.3 miles of single-track; 24.1 miles of motorized single-track; 29.2 miles of open roads

Open most of the year.  Start 6 miles east of Del Norte on US Hwy 160 at the Limekiln/Old Spanish Trail monument..  This 13,783-acre area is a large expanse of land with purpose-built, NEPA approved single-track on almost every geographic feature, and connected by two-track roads. It easily provides over 100 miles of riding.

 

Lookout Mountain Park Trails – Town of Del Norte

Elevation: 7,884 to 8,475 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy to Intermediate

Distance: 8 miles

Open all year, this USGS named summit at 8,475 feet sits within the Town of Del Norte’s 200-acre recreational park. Eight miles of natural surface, single track trails provide diverse experiences to hikers, runners, bicyclists, and equestrians. The more difficult one-mile trail to the summit has an elevation gain of 600 feet with wonderful craggy switchbacks near the top. Known to locals as “D” Mountain, its breathtaking summit view displays the entire San Luis Valley and the upper Rio Grande corridor. The land and trails system connect the town to the Del Norte High School on the east, to the BLM land on the south, to Rio Grande Hospital and Medical Clinic on the west and US Hwy 160 on the north. Map available at www.delnortetrails.org

 

Middle Frisco Trail #879

Elevation: 9,000 to 11,982 ft.

Difficulty:  Intermediate to Difficult

Distance: 6.3 miles one way

Photo by: Raleigh Burt

Open seasonally, weather permitting.  From the Town of Del Norte on US Hwy 160 turn south on French Street (Rio Grande County Rd 13) for 10 miles until you dead end at the first parking lot just as you cross the cattle guard.  A classic out-and-back alpine, mountain bike ride or hike climbs nearly 3,000 feet and ends at Frisco Lake, which is a cirque below Bennet Peak (elevation 13,203).  The trail follows Middle San Francisco Creek through beautiful aspen groves for the first few miles.  It then climbs through a mix of open meadows and spruce/fir forest, with 10 switchbacks on the upper section of the trail that are rideable with a nice grade.  There are only a few hike-a-bike sections on the trail.  Once you arrive at Frisco Lake, take some relaxing time before returning on the same trail.  Watch out for hikers and horses on the way down.  The downhill ride is fun!  It is a great ride for intermediate and advanced riders. Map available at www.delnortetrails.org

 

Natural Arch  

was formed by the action of wind, rain and weather on a volcanic dome.  Although it has some attributes of a shelter natural arch, the oval shape of its opening and the shapes of adjacent depressions in the volcanic dike indicate that it formed as a fin natural arch. From the intersection of US 160 and CO 112 in the center of Del Norte, head north on CO 112 for three miles; turn left (north) on Rio Grande CR 33, which becomes CR 38A; follow for 6+ miles; take a left on Forest Rd 660; travel about 4 miles to Forest Rd 659; take a right and Natural Arch is just over a mile on your right.  

 

 

“Old Spanish Trail” Association, La Vereda Del Norte Chapter

One of America’s longest, most scenic historic trails takes you to visit native Americans, Mexican gentlemen, and colorful trappers.  Watch for Churro sheep and big pack mules along the way.  Treks through Colorado on the Old Spanish National Historic Trail offers diverse scenery, significant history, and tale of connecting New Mexico to southern California (in a car, on bike, or on foot).  Travelers (1829-1848) packed mules with woolen goods to Los Angeles.  They returned to Santa Fe with horses and mules for trade to Missourians.  Many returned to southern California, leading growth and change of the agrarian Los Angeles basin.  Their long trips through scenic mountain terrain followed ancient Ute pathways.  Today’s mostly paved or gravel roads take you to scenic views of high mountains, deep canyons, cultures and ranches, forests, parks, and deserts.  Personal adventure – no cost.  See oldspanishtrail.org for map, books, photos.  635 Cherry Street Del Norte, CO 81132 • (719) 873-5239 • www.oldspanishtrail.org • kennruth@gojade.org

 

Penitente Canyon Recreation Area – BLM

Elevation: above 8,000 ft.

Difficulty:  Easy to Difficult

Distance: 20+ miles

Open most of the year and located 15 miles north of Del Norte off of Hwy 112 on to County Rd 33, continuing as Saguache County Rd 38A for about 12 miles to the signed entry.  This is a high desert canyon and low alpine riding/hiking trail system.  It comprises purpose-built NEPA approved, non-motorized, single-track trails, as well as technical rock climbing, campsites, and horse trails.  It is home to the “12 Hours of Penitence” endurance mountain bike race each autumn.  While in the area, you’ll ride through some of the country’s most fascinating history and geology. This is part of the La Garita Caldera, 22 miles wide and 47 miles long.  Map available at www.delnortetrails.org

 

 

Pronghorn Trails System – BLM
Elevation: 7,900 to 8,600 ft.
Difficulty: Easy to Difficult
Distance: 9.5 miles

Open May 1 to Dec. 31. In Del Norte on US Hwy 160 turn south on French Street (Rio Grande County Rd 13) for 1 ½ miles. For hikers and mountain bikers, this single-track non-motorized natural surface trail connects to Del Norte’s Lookout Mountain Park and Trails.  These NEPA approved trails have long, mostly gradual climbs and descents.  The area has a mix of rock features, canyon, and big vistas of San Francisco Creek, the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. Centering  around one large loop, the climbs/descents are longer than many in the area with some excellent lower watershed features. Mule deer, elk, falcons, hawks, and other bird species, desert flowers, grasses and reptiles inhabit the area. Map available at www.delnortetrails.org

 

Rio Grande County Museum and Cultural Center

Rio Grande County Museum offers a pathway into the history and culture of the area. The Native Americans, the mountain men and trappers, the settlers from New Mexico with the Mexican land grants, gold seekers, farmers, ranchers, cowboys, merchants and those who came for the adventure are represented in exhibits. The stories of John C. Fremont and the Fourth Expedition and Col. Pfeiffer, captain in the Army with Kit Carson, are told.  The history of Rio Grande County can be experienced with walking tours through the towns of Del Norte and Monte Vista starting with a visit to the Museum.  Summertime brings seasonal art shows of local artists with a variety of art styles shown.  The Museum also serves as an information center for the Del Norte area where maps, brochures and tourist information are available.  Summer hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 to 4:00 and Saturday 10:00 to 3:00.  580 Oak Street Del Norte, CO 81132 • (719)657-2847 •   http://www.museumtrail.org/rio-grande-county-museum.html • riograndecounty.org

 

Summitville Gold Mines  

Located 11,000ft above sea level Summitville has had a rough 100-year history, which has given forth more than 7.5 million dollars, worth of gold silver lead and copper. During its hay day this town and mine had six processing mills, stores, saloons, boarding houses, homes, a school and slaughter house. However, today the site is home to a multi-million dollar mining cleanup; resulting from high levels of cyanide and arsenic in the soil, which was once used to extract the gold. Due to health dangers there is no direct access to the mining site, but visitors can still see the remnants of the mine and experience the historic town buildings.  25 miles south of Del Norte, CO on County Road 14.

 

 

 

Stone Quarry Trail System – BLM

Elevation: 7,900 to 8,200 ft.

Difficulty:  Intermediate to Difficult

Distance: 9.5+ miles

Open most of the year. This is a venue for mountain bikers and hikers alike located off of US Hwy 160, 5 miles east of Del Norte, then south on Gun Club Road. This geologic area is a unique, rugged region with large boulder formations, which give the user a sense of seclusion. The high desert canyons provide a technically challenging play area with tight, winding, purpose-built, natural surface and slickrock single-track trails (NEPA approved non-motorized).  Several times the trail surfaces from the rock canyons, providing panoramic views of the San Luis Valley and surrounding mountain ranges.  Map available at www.delnortetrails.org