View Full Version : Bristol Head, Colorado

10-18-2014, 03:47 AM
So even before my two JKs I have always enjoyed off/back-road adventures. My dad got me started early in life by dragging my family and I on some truly ridiculous roads in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, etc... in a 1970s conversion van. As I look back it's actually pretty frightening some of the places we went in that thing. When we moved to Colorado in 1978 we had an International Scout that got the job done quite a bit better than the van and we also had a street legal sand rail that made quick work of the Colorado back roads when the weather was nice enough.

Later in life when my wife and I were broke and in medical school I bought a used '93 Sahara that my father actually gave me all kinds of trouble about because it "was going to be broken down more often than it was running". Turns out it never stopped running until the day I sold it in 2007 or so. My dad ended up liking it so much that he bought himself a 2003 and drove it so much that it actually did die somewhere just shy of 200,000 miles.

Well one of the things my father and I (and a few other relatives) have always enjoyed doing is getting together to elk hunt every year around Creede, Colorado. It is just a beautiful area (they shot the mountain portions of the recent Lone Ranger movie there). As time went by we found that we were hunting less each year and spending most of our time just exploring the area. After I sold my Sahara (I had lifted it by that time) I had no real way to get around in the mountains with them anymore so went looking for a new 4X4. I ended up finding an absolutely mint 2003 H1 that had been owned by the third baseman for the Denver Rockies (can't remember his name) that was on consignment at a Lexus dealer in Lakewood, Colorado. That became my hunting vehicle for several years.

Since a lot of this site is dedicated to the way of life of off-roading, and since I was just taking a little trip down memory lane and looking at some pics from that trip, I thought I'd share. Don't worry, Dad had his Wrangler along in case I got stuck. ;) This particular trip took us to the top of Bristol Head. A very commanding sight from any of the roads below it and something we had wanted to get to the top of for several years.

Hope you enjoy.


Here is an overhead image to get your bearings. Highway 149 is the route to this area from Creede. All the roads surrounding the fishponds and Santa Maria Lake can't be seen from the highway as they sit down in a valley. Some of the later pics will show the true scope of this amazing place.


Our rides for the day. 37s don't look that big on an H1, do they?


How to start a day off right!


The bighorns didn't seem to care at all that we were there. No, we had no sheep tags for this trip. These pictures were shot as we were actually nearing the top of Bristol Head (you can see the road we were on in the first aerial image just below the top where it makes a sharp cut to the left into the finger of darker olive colored vegetation as it circles around the peak to come up on the far side).


Here you can see the road actually cut left into the darker vegetation. Lots of sheep up there that day. 30 or 40 at least.


My nephew kicking back on Dad's Sport watching the sheep.


We've arrived at the top.


I think the only cellular tower in the county resides up there. Great signal from there. :crazyeyes:


It is seriously high!


It is truly a vast area. This is looking down on Saint Maria Lake from the top.




Sometimes we do stupid things for good pictures. :shock:


This is as close as I could make myself get to the edge. I could just see my brakes going.


We actually did do SOME hunting on the trip. Just no shooting or killing. :doh:


The night before the last day of the trip it snowed which gave us a whole new environment to play in.

Hope you guys enjoyed the pics. For most of us the experience is the payoff no matter what the vehicle is that gets us there. For a lot of us no one will ever see most of the photographs we take on our excursions so this was a chance to "dust them off" again.

Thanks for looking!

10-18-2014, 03:51 AM
awesome pictures. I'd love to go elk hunting this season but it's looking less and less likely. I'd love to find out the trails you hit to get up there.

10-18-2014, 04:02 AM
My best days out have ways been with my dad. It's really important to enjoy time together. Cool pics man!

10-18-2014, 04:08 AM
awesome pictures. I'd love to go elk hunting this season but it's looking less and less likely. I'd love to find out the trails you hit to get up there.

Here you go:


Here you can see 149 heading southwest from Creede. Bristol Head is just southwest of the center of the pic. You can see Santa Maria Lake to the west of Bristol Head.

The trailhead is waaaaaaaay up northwest, though (circled in red in the following pic):


I honestly can't remember the exact name of the trail that heads in to Bristol but it's just northeast of the entrance to North Clear Creek Falls (absolutely worth stopping to see) circled in blue in the following pic:


This isn't a quick trip. It's a long day.

10-27-2014, 02:56 AM
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've seen Bristol Head. I've stayed at the San Juan Ranch just below Bristol Head more than 20 times in my life. It's the small guest Ranch on the road up to Road Canyon Reservoir, and the Rio Grande Reservoir. When I didn't stay at the ranch always camped up above Road Canyon Reservoir. Your pictures bring back so many memories. I am so glad you shared your story.

I have also spent a lot of time up 149 toward Lake City. A lot of fishing, camping, and jeep trails that head over towards Silverton. Specifically, Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass. Further West you can take Black Bear Pass down into Telluride. Wonderful, wonderful trips.

08-16-2015, 10:06 PM
Since I read your trip report & enjoyed your pictures I have been working on a plan to make this trip myself. Last week 3 of us from Western Slope 4 Wheelers stayed in Lake City one night. Easily made the trip to the top in about 3 hours the next morning. Only problem was 3 lesser vehicles ahead of us that needed about 10 minutes to get turned around after realizing they were not adequately equipped for this road. No snow or wildlife in August. Great views. Well worth the time & effort. Before leaving we took the spur to Crystal Lake. Not much of a lake but good stop for late lunch. Thanks for the information about this destination & the North Clear Creek Falls nearby. Had to smile when friends traveling with us asked "How do you find these places?"
Sent the next night in South Fork. The folks at Wolf Creek Ski Lodge are big supporters of Motorized Recreation besides running a great motel.

08-20-2015, 02:48 AM
Thanks for posting up, Lesterms! I haven't been back since that trip and I think that it's time to get my own kids up there with me. Glad you had a good time!

08-20-2015, 01:24 PM
Great pics! Thanks for sharing. Keep on jeepin. :)