Bonanza - 11/19/19 version
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Bonanza is an old mining town southwest of Poncha Pass and north of Saguache.
The USFS and BLM cooperated to produce the Bonanza Off-Highway Vehicle Tour brochure, which shows routes around Bonanza that are open to OHVs. The emphasis is on the historical aspect of the area, which is rife with old mines, associated buildings and other structures. You can access the area from the parking area at Shirley Site, southwest of Mears Junction and from access points on highway 285 in the San Luis Valley.
The brochure is out of print, but jpg and pdf copies of the brochure are still available. These are shown on this page, and the files are available for download, as noted below.
There are 7 designated OHV routes leading to Bonanza. Each route is marked with a carsonite post and a color-keyed ore car sticker. The markers are generally near the start and end of each route and along the route to show the way at intersections. The colors and routes are:
RED______Slaughterhouse / Kerber Creek 861/862
BROWN___Otto Mears Toll Road 869
BLUE______Whale Hill 874/875
YELLOW___Turquoise Mine 874
GREEN____Alder Creek 890
GRAY_____Clover Creek 876
Orange Route 201B, 201C, xxxx
A popular place to park for access to the routes is at Shirley Site parking area on Silver Creek Road 201. The parking area will accomodate about 25 vehicles with trailers, and a USFS toilet is on site. As you leave Shirley Site on your OHV/bike you have two choices on Silver Creek Road 201:
1) Orange Route - ride southwest on Silver Creek Road 201 (left out of the parking lot) about 1 mile, then turn left and ride over the little bridge, then climb up to the open meadows adjacent to highway 285. Ride the Orange ore-car roads to Clover Creek Road 876, etc.
2) Otto Mears Toll Road 869 - ride southwest on Silver Creek Road 201 (left out of the parking lot) until you pass the western terminus of the Rainbow Trail (about x miles) to shortly reach the start of Otto Mears Toll Road 869. Turn sharp left onto the road, and climb to the high point at the San Isabel NF and Rio Grande NF boundary, then descend to Squirrel Creek, etc.
Both of these routes can be connected near Bonanza, so they make a loop. There are other loops and off shoots, so ride till you drop, then head back to Shirley Site on the other half of the loop you rode in on.
Caveats. There are steep rutted sections on the west end of Clover Creek Road 876 when you leave Squirrel Creek Road xxx. There is also a very steep, loose gravel, rutted section on the east side of Clover Creek Road 876. You encounter it heading east, shortly after leaving the high point of the road. ATV riders will usually have no problems in the dry. Wet conditions can make the roads very slick. Motorcyclists be cautious.
Some road segments are marked with BLM numbers (5xxx). When the roads cross BLM/USFS boundaries, USFS numbers are shown (8xx).
This picture shows a clip of most of the area. Click the map to see a larger jpg version (print for reference). This map has one correction for road numbering vs the original map and shows the newer Orange route starting near Shirley site..
A map legend showing route descriptions and mileages is pending.
Click pdf map to view or right-click to save a pdf map of the area for printing. The pdf version is higher quality than the jpg version.
DIRECTIONS: From Salida, drive west on US Highway 50 about 5 miles. Turn left onto Highway 285 and drive south.
Shirley Site - turn right at Mears Junction xxx and drive to Shirley Site parking lot, about 2 miles.
Access from highway 285 in the San Luis Valley - drive over Poncha Pass. The access points are not marked very well, so keep a sharp eye, and be careful of trafic following you at high speed (65 MPH limit).
Mileages for turnoffs pending.
See Dual Sport Riding in Central Colorado for information about other areas and rides.
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