The Upper Rio Grande – Rio Grande Reservoir Road and Stony Pass

The Upper Rio Grande – Rio Grande Reservoir Road and Stony Pass

Just 45 minutes from the town of Lake City lies the turn-off to the Upper Rio Grande area of Hinsdale County. Home to hiking, biking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, rental cabins, hunting, and photography – this remote part of Hinsdale County is off the beaten path and offers solitude and relaxation.

The Rio Grande Reservoir Road, also known as Forest Service Road 520, leads from the Silver Thread Scenic Byway toward Stony Pass and the headwaters of the Rio Grande. The Weminuche Wilderness Area runs along the south of the road. The first 19 miles of FS Road 520 are easily accessible by 2-wheel-drive vehicles up to Lost Trail Station. Beyond that, you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to take the rest of the road through Timber Hill, over Stony Pass, and down into Silverton.

Originally an old stage and freight route from Del Norte into Silverton, this road follows the Rio Grande for many miles. Take a tour of the history of this stage route from the original Native Americans, the Spanish and American explorers, the miners who followed, and the ranchers who supported the burgeoning population as a result of mining development. Many of these stage routes have been documented in a series of historical signs from Freemon’s Guest Ranch to the Grassy Hill Station near Pole Creek along FS Road 520. You’ll find that Road Canyon Reservoir, a State Wildlife Area, is a nice spot for fishing. You need a Colorado Wildlife Stamp to enter the area. This stamp is included in any fishing or hunting license, or you can buy the stamp separately. Get your license or stamp at any of our local fishing outfitters. Known for trout fishing, the Rio Grande Reservoir is located along this road, about 13 miles from Highway 149. There is a boat ramp and a restroom.

You can also hike, backpack, or ride a horse on the many trails in the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forest or the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Trailheads for the Rio Grande Pyramid, the Window, and Pole Creek Mountain are just off of this road.

Learn more and see our guide to 4 Must-Do Adventures in the Upper Rio Grande.