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Mountain Biking: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Divide Ranger District

Quick Facts

East Willow Creek Road

Beginning Elevation: 8,957 Feet (2792.1 Meters)
Difficulty: Moderate to More Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,283 Feet (399.9 Meters)
Ending Elevation: 10,240 Feet (3192.0 Meters)
Length, Round Trip: 5.1 Miles (8.5 Kilometers)
Road Number: 502
Time, Round Trip: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Usage: Very Heavy More than 1500 users per season.
USGS Maps: Creede and San Luis Peak
Vehicle Accessibility: Multiple use

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Fall color
Copyright: Unknown
Fall color
This is a 5.1 mile road which begins up West Willow Creek Road 503, about 0.7 mile north of the Mineral County Courthouse in Creede, and ends where it rejoins the West Willow Creek Road 503 just below the Midwest Mine (3 miles north of Creede). Much of the land along the road is private property, containing numerous abandoned mine shafts that pose a hazard to the unaware - especially children. The private property owners have requested, for your own safety and protection, that you do not leave your vehicle except to take pictures from the road. Remember, if you enter posted private property without permission, you are trespassing.

The road following East Willow Creek is rough and steep and not suitable for passenger cars.

The buildings you see as you start up East Willow Creek Road 502 are part of Upper or North Creede. This was the approximate townsite of Creede when the mining boom began in the late 1880's and 1890's. Several miles above the townsite is where Nicholas C. Creede made his initial high-grade silver discovery. Upon striking silver, Creede shouted, "Holy Moses!" The fault, vein, and associated mining claims are still called the Solomon-Holy Moses.

The cinder block building on the left side of the road marks the location of the first schoolhouse. Later the site served as a hydroelectric generating plant for the Town of Creede. It is no longer used today. If you look closely at the first old building you come to on the right side of the road, you can still see bars on some of the windows. This was the Creede jail.

The first 2.8 miles of the road closely parallel and at times cross East Willow Creek. The road gains approximately 723 feet in elevation over this section. It is not really steep but extremely rough, rocky, and narrow. Precautions should be taken due to several "blind" curves along this road.

About 0.7 miles up East Willow Creek Road 502, on the right side of the road, you will notice several trestle-type structures supporting cables. One set of cables runs up the hill on the right side of the road to the Molly S Mine, which is located just below and to the left of the cliff above. Slightly to the right, or south of the Molly S, on this cliff lies the Unis Mine. These cable systems for hauling the ore down the mountain in buckets to the road were called "jig backs." A short jig back ran from the Unis to the Molly S above.

The Molly S jig back then brought the ore from both mines down to the road where you are standing. If you look directly across the road to the left (west) and high up on the cliff (just below the top), you can see wooden mine structures hanging on the cliff. This is the Monte Carlo Mine. The mine is locally known as the Kentucky Belle Mine because the Kentucky Belle Company ran it.

Approximately 0.7 mile up the road on the left side of the Solomon Mine. The Ridge Mine and the Outlet Mine are another 0.2 and 0.8 mile further up the road on the left.

Three miles up the road from its beginning, a jeep road/foot trail turns right into Phoenix Park and the headwaters of East Willow Creek. The East Willow Creek Road 502 continues to the left and starts to switchback up the mountain. (The Phoenix Park road/trail begins just above the tailing ponds you pass on the right side of the road about 0.5 mile beyond where the road crosses East Willow Creek).

This road/trail is open to both foot and motor vehicle travel for approximately two miles, to just above the first beaver ponds and near an old cabin. The vehicle route ends near the cabin and is signed "No Motor Vehicles." Beyond this point only foot and horse travel is permitted. The beaver ponds in Phoenix Park usually provide excellent catches of trout for the angler.

The upper reaches of East Willow Creek are part of the Creede Municipal Watershed. A scenic waterfall cascades down from the mountainside on the northeast side of this basin.

Returning to the East Willow Creek Road 502, from the fist switchback, the road climbs steeply (920 feet) for approximately 1.4 miles. This section of road contains many switchbacks which involve some backing in order to negotiate with all but short wheel base 4x4's. From the fist switchback, looking south along the mountainside, you can see the Phoenix Mine. Leading off each switchback are old mining trails and roads which lead to old diggings and mine shafts that dot the entire mountainside.

The road then drops (360 feet) from the top for 0.7 mile to the Midwest Mine and West Willow Creek Road 503. From this junction, you can make a hard turn to the right uphill onto the West Willow Creek Road 503 and continue on the West Willow Creek/Rat Creek/Bachelor Mountain Road Loop (18.8 miles to Creede), or on the West Willow Creek/Bachelor Mountain Road Loop (5 miles to Creede). Turning downhill to the left at this junction will bring you through the steep narrow West Willow Creek Canyon to Creede (3 miles).

Directions from Creede: The road begins 0.7 mile north of the Mineral County Courthouse in Creede. Turn right at the road junction of East Willow Creek Road (Forest Development Road 503).

Seasonal Information:
Normally Accessible: Mid-June through Mid-October (NOTE: The road usually is free of snow and passable to vehicles by Mid-June through October or Early November.) .

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Difficulty: Easy
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Not Recommended
Report: It is illegal to ride an ATV through North Creede, it is part of the city of Creede. The law is enforced and you will be ticketed. It is also a county road above there and it is also not legal to ride on county maintained roads in Mineral County.
Conditions: Cops!!!

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Cold Water Fishing Phoenix Park
ICON Four-Wheel Driving East Willow Creek Road
ICON Hiking & Walking Phoenix Park, above the beaver ponds
ICON Horseback Riding Phoenix Park, above the beaver ponds
ICON Viewing Historic Sites The old townsite of Creede
ICON Mountain Biking 5.1 mile s
ICON ATV Riding 5.1 miles
ICON Motorcycle Riding Dirt Bikes

Related Activities
Bachelor Historic Loop Tour Interpretive Site - This tour is a self-guided interpretive vehicle loop 16 1/2 miles long that will take you through a portion of the historic Creede mining district.

Nelson Mountain Primitive Road - The last half of the road traverses a beautiful subalpine park at timberline.Other than being a scenic, high mountain jeep road, the route offers no other extraordinary or distinctive attractions.

More Information

Visitor Information:

Alamosa Visitor Information Center, Cole Park , Alamosa, CO, 81101, Phone: 719-589-4840, bluskys@alamosa.org


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