Home > Highlanders > Summer storms on McClellan Mountain

Summer storms on McClellan Mountain

We decided to play hooky from church today and enjoy the summer day in Colorado. The girls wanted to hit the movies (some ridiculous dance movie sequel), so I loaded up the Land Cruiser and headed west to Georgetown.

After topping off the tank I headed up Guanella Pass Road to get to the trail to Argentine Pass/Waldorf, and the Santiago Mine/McClellan Mountain area. The road is in the Arapaho National Forest and is designated as FS 248.1. There are a few other Forest Service roads that wind in and out but if you stay on 248.1 nearly any 4WD with adequate ground clearance should be fine.

There is a fairly narrow shelf road once you get above around 11,000 feet, but it yields amazing views. It was quite cool on the trail. I got into some early afternoon rain/hail before I got to Santiago mine so I turned back and headed down for the time being, just in case it either got worse or didn’t get better. It gave me a chance to explore the lower sections of FS 248.1B (the “tougher” of the trails; I think this is the way the Rising Sun 4×4 Club went a few weeks ago). This side road requires good ground clearance, careful tire placement, and I thought 4-low made sense. It’s really steep and loose, so the center diff lock came in handy. (Didn’t have to use the rear locker, unfortunately.)

At the Santiago Mine

When the skies cleared a bit I headed back up to Santiago, and then made the hairpin right to head up McClellan Mountain. Fewer and fewer other vehicles as I neared the summit, but found loads of beautiful summer color! The wildflowers were gorgeous, especially cast against the gray skies. Snapped a cool little pika chilling in the rocks. (Look carefully in center of the frame.)

Pose for me, pika!

The clouds started building again near the summit of McClellan, so I didn’t tarry. Fortunately there hadn’t been any thunder or lightning for the better part of an hour so I snapped a few pictures of the splendor below me and then headed back down.

Looking down from the summit of McClellan Mountain

Summer color

When possible I diverted back to 248.1B for a little more of a challenge, a little water, and fewer vehicles. There were a few folks camping but otherwise I had the trail to myself. I had some intermittent sprinkles but besides that, nothing but the landscape to distract me. I did see an abandoned campfire near the “hangman’s tree” up from Santiago. Some morons had left a few signs of their party so I broke out the trash bag and helped out a little.

Rather than queue up on I-70 to head back east I went up and over Guanella. Again, something about the dark skies seemed to make the landscape even more dramatic than usual. I paused for a moment at the summit to let soak in just how fortunate I am to live in the Rockies.

More summer color

Up and over Guanella Pass Road

View from Guanella Pass summit

Life in paradise. 🙂

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