Rio Grande County Highpoint Trip Report

Bennett Peak (13,203 ft)

Date: July 1, 2005
Author: Layne Bracy

The three county highpoints for Conejos, Archuleta, and Rio Grande each require easy to moderate hikes but are fairly remote, requiring lots of driving on unpaved roads. I decided to try to get all three with a loop from South Fork.

The total time, round trip, from South Fork was 15 hours.

I left South Fork at 3:30 am, heading west on Highway 160. Turned on Park Creek Road (FR 380), taking that to FR 250 through Platoro to FR 105. FR 105 is signed "Lake Fork Ranch". As I neared the TH, I passed a sign that said "Trail Closed" so I kept driving until the road got too sketchy. By this time, I had already seen many elk, including a calf or two. I would see 40 or so this day, on all three hikes and along much of the drive.

After completing Archuleta County, I took FR 380 to 330 to 329 towards Blowout Pass. A mile from the TH, I saw a mid-sized golden bear on the road. It scampered into the woods, watched me a little, and ran off before I could get a photo. My second bear sighting in Colorado! The last 1/2 mile to the TH requires high clearance, though it also came in handy for much of my drive today.

I was glad this was the shortest hike of the three and had a trail to the top! Clouds were getting a little dark in some areas and I was tired. Started up at 3:27 pm. The 4WD road/jeep ruts go to the summit plateau. The route is simple -- just turn left at the Bennett/Sheep saddle. Summitted at 4:25 pm to find a giant and poorly constructed cairn. Lots of wildflowers everywhere. Thunder in the distance kept me going quickly on the descent and I finished the hike at 5:10 pm.

Drove back out to FR 330 and headed to Del Norte, pleased that the last 11 miles were actually paved. Arrived back in South Fork at 6:30 pm, showered, and devoured a large chicken fried steak at the Hungry Logger.