Are you like me, a single track snob seeking out unknown, pristine, mountain single track wherever and
whenever you can find it? Then Bonita Hill is not for you. It’s not single track at all... But I must admit, I
found this ride to be a pretty fantastic adventure.
We were camped about a mile up Columbia Gulch FR857 and about 2 miles or so from the junction of Ute
Pass Road. The scenery didn’t seem to be anything spectacular. Mostly sage and scrubby, sort of desert-like
even, with rolling hills, pine forest and a smattering of aspen.
The route we took linked several forest service roads and was a lollipop configuration when all was said and
done. We started right from camp up a fairly steep climb on FR857. It had just enough shade and moderate
spots to catch your breath on. Not technically challenging but still a good little climb.
We topped out and then dropped down into a high mountain meadow. The road levels and about 3 or 4
miles in, an unmarked left crosses the trickle of Kerber Creek. This is actually FR858, Sawlog Gulch. A short
climb through some nice pine forest deposits you atop the hill with views to the southwest towards
Saugauche and the La Garitas. Soak in the aspen lined views for a bit and then plunge down a seemingly
endless 3 mile downhill strewn with fun, rocky sections. Nice views on the way down, but stop to enjoy
them. It’s a bumpy run down and you’d be ill advised to take you eyes off the prize…
Eventually, you’ll intersect with FR880 and will hang a right here. The 2nd climbing stint begins as you pass
mining remnants and ascend Bonita Hill. The climb is pleasant 4WD road again, rising up from the scrubby
desert and ascending into aspen covered hillsides.
You’ll intersect with FR 857 again and continue climbing until you crest Bonita Hill and then realize it’s
downhill, and a fun one at that. But alas, it is short-lived. Just past the spur to Spook City (an old mining
camp), the next 2 miles are a grunty, grunt-like grunt fest up an aspen covered hillside. All completely ride-
able, but an abrupt, steep section at this point of the ride (about 12 miles in here) is just plain rude. You’ll
pass several old mine ruins and big views south and west with lots of aspen until you reach a forest gate.
Go through the magical gate and your reward awaits you…Five miles or so of uninterrupted downhill
through aspen groves, rocky sections, rollers, berms and sweet views. Wildlife is inevitable (two deer and a
bull elk) in the lush meadows lining the road along the way. One more brief climb and then the final
plummet back down to our camp clocked the entire route in at just shy of 20 miles ( I came up with 19.7,
but my computer has been finicky of late..it felt 20-ish for sure). All in all it was three climbs, three
downhills and a whole lot of fun.
Although the maze of mining roads mentioned here are part of a popular ATV circuit that winds through the
hills around Bonanza (including the Otto Mears Toll Road to Marshall Pass and the Shirley town site), we saw
zero ATV’s, one lone dude in a pick up truck and only the aforementioned wildlife the entire day.