Crooked Creek Pass perfect place for summer getaway

Hiking Crooked Creek Pass from the town of Eagle to Thomasville can be the perfect daytrip away from the heat in Grand Junction. It’s also a good spot to consider for your entire summer vacation.


Crooked Creek Pass

Drive time and distance: Most of a day; 280 miles round-trip

Length: A crooked mile or more

Hiking Time:  Varies widely

Elevation: 6,600 ft. at Eagle, 10,007 ft. at top of pass, 8,018 ft. at Thomasville

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate because of the altitude

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile, He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse. And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

I could not remember that nursery rhyme as I drove south along Crooked Creek Pass from the town of Eagle to Thomasville the other day — but I tried to hum a few bars.

Crooked Creek Pass may be crooked, but it’s pretty smooth. It’s a dirt road most of the way, yet it’s well maintained, little used, and winds through a scenic, remote section of the White River National Forest between Eagle and Ruedi Reservoir, high in the Fryingpan River drainage above Basalt.

This is a great day trip, a wonderful over-nighter, or a marvelous place to spend your entire summer vacation.

Traveling southeast from Eagle, I daydreamed through lush green aspen forests and thickly-scented pine. I came across broad fields of yellow dandelions that stretched for hundreds of yards to the base of the aspen forest, which itself extended to dark timber. Beyond that, the eastern horizon was flanked by the white-faced caps of 12,550-foot New York Mountain, Gold Dust Peak, Fools Peak, Eagle Peak, Avalanche Peak, and Burnt Mountain. To the west, 11,961-foot Mt. Thomas peaked above timberline, and in the far west, 11,193-foot Sugarloaf Mountain seemed to smile over the entire scene.

A gentle morning breeze allowed the flowers and forest grasses to bob and bow, as lime-green leaves of quaking aspen glistened in the bright azure sky.

Near the top of the pass, I pulled off to hike a crooked mile. You could hike nearly anywhere around here… along four-wheel-drive roads that skirt the edges of the forest where bluish-purple mountain lupine bloom in abundance, or through impressive high-mountain meadows full of delicious yellow dandelions and tall summer grasses.

I chose to hike along Little Lime Creek, then later in the day, along Lime Creek below its confluence with Little Lime Creek.

What a gem of a canyon!

And it just happened to be loaded with wild, voracious orange-spotted brown trout.

Who knew?

Good thing I hike with a graphite walking stick.

Further south, both Lime Creek and Crooked Creek Pass lead to Thomasville, where they spill out into the upper Fryingpan River Valley.

Thomasville was once home to the Thomasville Kilns and lime mining operation. Originally called Calcium after the limestone deposits found nearby, Thomasville was named for a guy named “Mr.” Thomas, who worked for the St. Louis & Colorado Smelting Company.

The Smelting Company and the Colorado Midland Railroad built the town to support the lime kilns and railroad. The Thomasville Lime Kilns still stand after Pitkin County renovated them earlier this decade. These structures were used between 1889 and 1908 to produce powdered lime by heating limestone quarried from the surrounding hills, according to the Pitkin County Historical Society.

Lime was used in many industrial processes and was shipped via railroad, which ran along the current Fryingpan Road alignment.

Once you hit Thomasville, you’ll soon find the paved two-lane blacktop called the Fryingpan River Road. It will lead you west past Ruedi Reservoir, then down the Fryingpan Valley to Basalt, where the Fryingpan River flows into the Roaring Fork River between Aspen and Carbondale.

To take this driving tour, head east on Interstate-70 from Grand Junction to Eagle (Exit 147), about 120 miles and a two-hour drive. Turn south and follow the signs to Sylvan Lake State Park. On the south side of town, turn south on Brush Creek Road and travel 10 miles to the Sylvan Lake Visitor Center. Continue on Brush Creek Road until the road forks and becomes dirt. At the fork, stay right and travel five miles to the lake, campground and cabins.

Sylvan provides serenity in an alpine park “perfect for daydreaming,” according to the state Parks Division. “Non-motorized boating and non-electrical camping offer the opportunity for quiet recreation at this gateway to the White River National Forest. Continue driving past the lake, however, to hit Crooked Creek Pass, also known as the Eagle-Thomasville Road. Stay on that all the way to Thomasville, then to the Fryingpan River Road. Turn west (right) and follow that road to Basalt, where you’ll connect with Highway 82. Turn north (right) and head to Glenwood Springs, then eventually west on I-70 back to the Happy Valley.

Although Sylvan Lake provides a great place to camp,  there are hundreds of places to pull off and walk a crooked mile along Crooked Creek Pass, an outstanding place for a drive, an over-nighter, or an entire summer vacation.


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