Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Madden Peak Road in the LaPlata Mountains

Madden Peak Road starts about six miles east of Mancos in southwest Colorado and climbs about 8 miles into the San Juan National Forest toward Madden Peak.Madden Peak is toward the south end of the LaPlata Range of the San Juan Mountains. The highest peak of the group is Mt. Hesperus. The forest road was still closed due to snow in early April 2008, but in the early morning the road was firm enough to hike on.

The forest in the lower part of the road is Oak and Ponderosa Pine. The road has quite a few switchbacks with higher and higher good views back to the west toward Lookout Point on Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute Mountain. The Blue Mountains near Monticello, Utah are also visible.

Near the beginning of the Madden Peak Road is the Old Railroad Grade, also a popular bike and hiking route, but still snowy and muddy early in the season. Part of the railroad grade is visible from the Madden Peak Road.
Climbing higher the forest changes to Aspens and the snow changed from patches to completely covering the road. On the way up the snow was firm enough to walk on, but started to soften up towards noon. When I broke through the crust I was usually in up to my knees.

I walked up hill for 2:30 hours and probably made about 5 of the 8 miles to the end of the road. Going down I only needed 1:40 for a total hike of 4:10 hours.