High Perspective from San Juan County Road 14

I went out yesterday in spite of the rain. I got wet, but it was one of the best rides I’ve ever taken. One road I traversed yesterday was San Juan County Road 14. I’d never been before, so this was new exploration for me—I found the views incomparable and the wildflowers spectacular. I took a nice GPS track, which appears below.

Rain in distance

A view from the rooftop! This picture is taken from near the summit on San Juan County Road 14 and looks south. You can see several rain cells. Yes, I got wet.

San Juan County Road 14’s north end is just south of Red Mountain Pass. By ‘just south,’ I mean just south, as in a few hundred feet. It lies entirely to the east of US. Hwy 550, and eventually rejoins it. Don’t go up CR 14A—that just loops over the hill and takes you right back down to the base of CR 14—hardly a distance of a hundred yards. San Juan County takes great care of their roads. This is a ride that a beginner or a beginner+ can do easily, although there are some steep spots. Most of the road is like what you see in the following photo:

road view

San Juan, Colorado, County Road 14 is well maintained and pretty much looks like this for its entire distance.

The first thing that hit me was the profusion of wildflowers, which I’ll cover in a separate post. CR 14 quickly climbs and comes out above tree line. The views are spectacular, as shown in the leading photo. Also, I was able to see Black Bear Pass Road across the valley (see photo). Black Bear Pass Road also departs US Hwy 550 just south of Red Mountain Pass, but to the west. As you can see from the photo, even the eastern approach to Black Bear Pass offers some steep climbs. Of course, it’s the descent into Telluride that makes it so interesting (no, you don’t want to try it unless you’re an expert).

View across the valley

From above tree line on San Juan County Road 14, here's the view across the valley. That's the eastern part of Black Bear Pass Road. BBP Road is an intermediate road up to the pass itself. Beyond that, you need to be expert++.

Back to CR 14: The road has a few steep spots but nothing too hard. I was able to sit for most of the ride, standing only when I thought the road a bit steep. There are a few switchbacks—I usually stood for those too.

Now, before I provide the all-important GPS track for this delightful road, I’ll note that the rain shown in the top picture moved around. I intercepted it a few times. Even though it was July 24th, it was plenty cold up there at altitude, soaked through and still raining. Fortunately, the road surface was such that I didn’t run into any traction issues. Also—and this is critical—there was no lightning. If there had been, I would have sought shelter much further down the mountain!

CR 14 GPS track

Here's the GPS track. I traveled the road from north to south. The road is a bit steep in places but the road surface is excellent (for dirt-biking, that is) with very little scree and not much exposed rock.

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4 Responses to High Perspective from San Juan County Road 14

  1. dave says:

    Russ, I have been to the blowout, but not on the bike. That side of the mountain is a rabbit’s warren of roads, so I’m not sure I could find my way back. I think getting there involves traveling through private land. I was there to help put up a temporary digipeater that our club used to provide communications support for the Hard Rock 100 race. I have some amazing pictures—it really is way up on the side of the mountain!

  2. Russ Locke says:

    Dave,
    I’ve always wanted to take San Juan CR 14 but never seemed to have time or some other excuse. But what I really want to ask about is Ouray CR 14A. Back in the late 70’s I rode up there with some guys to an overlook near the ‘Blow Out’ and we looked down on Ouray from there. I went back a few years later on my own and could not find the Blow Out. I’m assuming here that you know what the Blow Out is (where a huge part of the mountain fell away.)

    Russ

    PS, I waste way too much work time on your web site!

    PPS, I’ll ping you on 146.79 (I think that is the freq you monitor, I’ll double check) when I come through in two weeks.

  3. dave says:

    Mike, the local map for Ouray County shows very little of the back country. For more info on back country maps, including a link to a printable map from the Ouray Chamber of Commerce, see here. Regarding Black Bear Pass, it’s universally considered by far the most difficult pass around. Those who rent Jeeps must sign a paper saying they will NOT take them over Black Bear. I’ve been told it’s easier on a motorcycle, but I’ve never heard that directly from anyone who’s done it. You should consider yourself an expert rider before attempting it because there’s no room for mistakes and mistakes can quite quickly be fatal. If there are Jeeps attempting the descent, there’s no room to pass. Jeeps have to back and fill to get around the hairpins. To see what the steep section (one way only: down) looks like from Tomboy Road near Telluride, see the seventh picture in my post on Imogene Pass. Let me know when you’re out here—maybe we can go riding together! (But not Black Bear!)

  4. Mike LeMasters says:

    Enjoy your site, thanks for sharing info on the area.
    Will go over in detail the next few weeks but in the meantime can you recommend some paper maps of the Ouray area? I’m trying to find some county maps and not topo maps Want to ride the Black Bear and the surrounding trails mostly south and west of Ouray. We’ve ridden the trails east of Ouray towards Lake City.We’re planning some riding there in late July this year. I bought a DR400S just to come to Colorado and ride the jeep trail passes.
    Again thanks for sharing your information and like your photographs too.

    Mike

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