Penitente Canyon Trails - Boot Mountain Loop
ElevationAscent: 5,212' 1,589 m
Descent: -5,219' -1,591 m
High: 12,138' 3,700 m
Low: 7,856' 2,395 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 43% (23°)
Current trail conditions
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“A rugged two-track backcountry loop from the Penitente Canyon Trails to Boot Mountain and back.”— jeff parker
The climbing from here will be steady as you gain the ridge line. Once there, the views really open up and you're treated broad reaches of the San Juans as you skirt the head of a wide valley. J36 ends at the head of this valley, and Coolbroth Trail #672 continues straight. You'll turn left towards Poso Creek Trail #671, but instead of turning to follow Poso Creek, you'll turn left again to continue skirting the valley head on an unnamed two-track that connects to the La Garita Stock Driveway Trail #787 for about a mile. Turn right onto La Garita Stock Driveway.
Following the La Garita Stock Driveway, historically a route for bringing cattle and sheep to high country grazing for the summer, you'll find a wide range of riding, from smooth two-track to super steep cobble fields that must be pushed as the trail traces the long ridge. You'll again see evidence of volcanic activity with porous volcanic rock strewn about. In about 6 miles, you'll descend into the saddle at the foot of Boot Mountain and intersect Cave Creek Road #673. If you want to summit Boot Mountain at 12,000 feet, continue a little farther on the Stock Driveway, then head cross country on foot to the peak. It's an easy hike. If you want to continue riding, turn left onto Cave Creek Road #673 (which is really just a rough two-track here) and begin descending into the La Garita Creek valley.
After about 1.2 miles, La Garita Creek Trail descends to your left as Cave Creek Road #673 ends about a mile ahead. Turn left onto La Garita Creek Trail #793, and descend steeply towards the valley floor, then meander through meadows and open woods as it follows La Garita Creek downstream. About 4 miles down La Garita Creek Trail #793, the trail turns left and climbs up the valley side a bit to avoid private land. If you miss the turn, you'll be blocked by a posted and gated trail a few miles farther downstream and have to turn back. After circumventing the in-holding, La Garita Creek Trail #793 intersects La Garita Creek Cut-off Trail #793.2 and descends to the creek again. Here you'll turn left to follow La Garita Creek Trail #793 as it turns to singletrack.
This segment of the trail is narrow, moderately rugged singletrack with some short, steep climbs and descents as La Garita Creek forms more of a gorge. You can set much evidence of the volcanic activity here, including thick layers of volcanic ash capped by deep lava flows. The La Garita Creek Trail #793 ends in a parking area at the end of County Road E39. From here, you continue on the county road downstream until it leaves the valley and intersects County Road 38A.
Turn left onto County Road 38A as it skirts the base of the mountains, passing several entrances into the Penitente Canyon Trails. If you want to finish on singletrack, head into the trail system and work you way north to the parking lot on County Road 41G. If you're ready to get back to your car, continue on 38A until it heads east to La Garita and County Road 40G heads west as Penitente Canyon Road. The fastest way back is to continue straight onto Baseline Road which leads directly to your starting point.
Also on this route you'll ride a segment of the historic La Garita Stock Driveway, a trail used to bring cattle and sheep to high country grazing in the summer. Hard to think how tough those folks, and their critters, were once you experience the trail.
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Dogs Allowed, Features, E-Bikes Allowed