Alder Creek  
USGS 7.5' Map: Whale Hill
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy - 3 FR 890 3.50 11,760 ft. Steep - 2 2-3 hours
County: Saguache
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Rio Grande National Forest
Saguache Ranger District
46525 State Highway 114
Saguache, CO 81149
Summary: Alder Creek is an easy 4WD road that climbs to a saddle below Round Mountain. The majority of the road is in the forest with few views and steep sections. It passes two substantial mine sites that have mine buildings.
Attractions: Mining History, Steep Climb
Agency, March 14 to May 16
Best Time: June - Thick forest cover will keep the snow on the upper parts of the road late into June
July - May still hit snow and softer road beds early in July
August - Best
September - Best, fall colors
October - Early snows will close the upper part of the road
Trail Heads
Camping: There is camping at the top near Round Mountain. The main section of the 4WD is steep and does not offer any flat areas. The lower section is private.
Base Camp: Alder Creek would not be a good area to base camp. The west side of the saddle toward Bonanza would be best with access to a large network of 4WD roads and mining history.
Fall Colors: Poor - Alder Creek is mainly pine forest. The lower section does have a few stands of large aspen trees that afford some color.
Navigation: To reach Alder Creek take Hwy 285 south from Poncha Springs about 11 miles, crossing Poncha Pass. Look for County Road W52 on the right, west side. Turn here into a small parking area. Follow County Road W52 back toward the north a short distance before heading west. After just over a mile you will come to a gate as you enter Forest Service public lands. Leave the gate closed behind you.
History: Just south of the start of Alder Creek 4WD road is the ghost town of Alder. Alder began at the confluence of Alder Creek and San Luis Creek with a roadhouse and Henry Emmet's blacksmith shop. Travelers over Poncha Pass could get food and lodging as well as their horses and mules shod. When the Denver and Rio Grande railroad constructed the narrow gauge line over Poncha Pass the tracks were placed a quarter mile from Alder. The town moved to be closer to the tracks. The railroad kept extra locomotives at the Round Hill Station (Alder) called "helpers" to assist heavey trains with the steep climb over Poncha Pass.

Alder got its post office in 1881 with the coming of the railroad, which remained open until 1927. A few buildings remain at the old Alder site near Alder Creek and San Luis Creek. Topo maps show abandoned buildings at the new Alder site, no on the ground confirmation has been done.

Kenneth Jessen, Ghost Towns Colorado Style Vol 3, J. V. Publications, Loveland, 2001, p. 129-130
Alder Creek 4WD road follows Alder Creek through the forest to a saddle between Round Mountain and Mount Manitou. The road follows the lower part of Alder Creek for about a mile and a half climbing with the creek. As the gulch narrows the road heads to the north away from the creek and begins to climb a spread out series of switchbacks ascending 1,500 feet in about a mile of traveling.

Along the way you will pass a few tailing piles and one mine with an intact headframe. The forest is dense here and views are just of the forest around you. After reaching the flatter ground above you will come to an intersection. The road to your right heads north, continue climbing up to the west staying on FR890. Forest Road 890 is the only road that is legal to drive based on the Saguache Ranger District Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM).

After three quarters of a mile you will pass the Colorado Belle Mine. After a half mile from the Colorado Belle you will reach the saddle between Round Mountain and Mount Manitou with the Shawmut Mine at the base of Round Mountain to the north and the Legal Tender Mine at the base of Mount Manitou to the south.
Data updated 01/10/11       4WD Road driven 09/18/10       Copyright - 2000-2011