Chaffee County, Colorado
San Isabel National Forest
Salida Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map
Forest Service Roads: 175, 185, 185.B, 185.C
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Johnson Village, Buena Vista, Salida
Nearby Trails: Chinaman Gulch, Badger Creek, Minesweeper, Carnage Canyon (BV), Shields-McGee Loop, Lenhardy Cutoff, Chubb Park, Bassam Park, Black Dumps, Castle Rock Gulch, Turret Trail, Bald Mountain Gulch, Bald Mountain Loop
Season: April 16th through November 30th
Trail Length: 20.9 miles
Elevation: 7,527 to 10,293 feet
This amazing trail has a bit of everything, but if you're lucky you'll see it in the fall when the aspen leaves turn from green to yellow. It's called Aspen Ridge for a reason, and the many, many aspen groves feature miles of healthy aspen trees. In addition, you'll see big mountain views, an old ghost town, remnants of mining operations, a big quarry, and a few rocky sections on the trail. It's a great way to connect Johnson Village with Salida while skipping the pavement.
You can travel the trail in either direction, and there is almost always plenty of room to pass oncoming traffic. The trail is almost straight as it travels from north to south. If you are starting from the north end you must do part of the Bassam Park trail, and the trail starts along the western edge of the park The views are very nice here.
The first spur on the left at the base of the park is 185.C, and it is a short distance to what is left of the town of Futurity. There is evidence of copper mining, and the site was large. The spur dead-ends just past the town.
The second spur on the left is a short road to the Elk Mountain Ranch, a luxury dude ranch tucked into Little Bull Gulch. If camping isn't your thing, this is the place to stay.
Continue south and the views open up in Coons Park. There are many places to pull off of the trail for pictures, but the best overlooks seem to be found in spots previously used for camping. These spots are marked on the map, and you can see big aspen tree groves as well as distant mountain peaks. Just past Coons Park and the overlooks is a seasonal gate, and travel south of this gate is prohibited in the winter.
The road can be rocky in spots as you head into the trees. Aspen Ridge is on the east side of the trail as you continue to head south. Mud can make things challenging in spots.
There is another seasonal gate and another overlook as you leave the ridge and travel to the east of Green Mountain. You travel along Marble Quarry Gulch, and there is lots of evidence of previous mining. Between Graphite Ridge and Calumet Mountain is a quarry that was a pretty big operation. You can park up near the quarry and see old buildings, but the tunnels are closed.
Continue south and pass the trailhead for the Turret Trail on the right. It is a quick and easy trip to the town of Turret to see the tiny mountain town. Just past this trailhead is a big quarry, a hole in the ground surrounded by white rock. The hole is filled with water, making a very picturesque lake. You can drive around to the back side of it for access, or park on the road to view it from above.
From here, the trail south is easy though it descends at a quick rate. Be sure to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic on the curves. Keep heading downhill when the road turns to forest service road 175. This portion is also known as the Ute Trail. Continue south to find highway 291 on the north side of Salida.
Information last updated on October 9th, 2013.
From Fairplay, take highway 285 south to turn left on county road 307. Find the trailhead to Bassam Park 1.3 miles along this dirt road as a left turn onto county road 187. Follow Bassam Park 5.8 miles to the trailhead for Aspen Ridge on the right.
Meet in Fairplay at the large gas station on the west side of the highway.