This scenic and remote primitive road is a popular subalpine route into the Wheeler Geologic Area. While the road is relatively level (540 feet difference between its lowest and highest points), it is rough, roundabout, and very slow, with much of the roadbed made up of embedded rocks.
Copyright: D. Steinke
Wheeler Geologic Area
A round trip takes an average of 7 to 7 1/2 hours not including time to walk to and explore Wheeler Geologic Area itself. Leave early, to allow yourself sufficient time for the trip, and time to explore, take pictures, etc. Leaving Creede between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. should allow you enough time, with arrival back in Creede between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Wheeler Geologic Road # 600 (4-wheel drive) begins at Hanson's Mill at the end of the improved graveled Pool Table Road # 600. An old sawdust pile is the only remains of where the mill once stood. The area adjacent to Hanson's Mill is flat and is suitable for undeveloped camping and picnicking. The only facility provided here is a pit toilet.
From here, the 4-wheel drive road is well-signed and marked with white arrows. All 4-wheel drive travel is restricted to the marked road only, with the exception that you may drive off the road for up to 300 feet to gain access to suitable undeveloped campsites along the route. You should stop by any Forest Service Office and obtain a Travel Map if you have questions concerning travel restrictions.
The road climbs from Hanson's Mill through spruce/fir for 0.4 mile to a road junction. The left fork is not the 4-wheel drive route to Wheeler but can be driven for a little over 1 mile where it dead-ends just before East Bellows Creek. From this point, the route continues as a trail (foot, horse, and trail bike only) for 5.7 miles to the Wheeler Geologic Area. This trail is part of the old Alder Creek Stock Driveway, which today is Trail #790 on your Rio Grande Forest map. (The map is in error showing this as a 4-wheel drive route). There is limited parking for 3 to 4 vehicles at the end of this spur road.
If you prefer hiking, and are in good physical condition, you can probably walk to Wheeler faster than driving a 4-wheel drive vehicle the 14 miles to Wheeler via the jeep road. If you plan to drive into Wheeler; however, go straight at the road junction rather than following this left fork of the road. The junction is well-signed.
From this junction, the Pool Table Road #600 travels northeast, gently climbing 360 feet in elevation over the next 3.9 miles. The first 3 miles of this section of road continues through spruce/fir and then breaks into the open to follow the tree line on the right until the road swings northwest and crosses East Bellows Creek.
From this point to within 1.5 miles of its end, the road traverses primarily through open subalpine country. Just up the hill from the East Bellows Creek crossing, the road turns northwest and is relatively level for the next 2.6 miles, except where the road crosses Trujillo Creek and the Canyon Fernandez drainage. From the Canyon Fernandez drainage, the road drops about 540 feet over the next 2.5 miles to the Canyon Nieve drainage. This portion of road swings from a southwest direction to northwest. The road then continues to the west, climbs 460 feet over the next 1.2 miles, and then levels out for approximately 1.6 miles to where Trail #790 joins the road.
The next mile of road/trail drops 360 feet in elevation through spruce/fir trees. This section is narrow and twists its way through the trees. The lower part of this section (which is only about 3/4 mile from the end of the road) is often muddy and rutted, making maneuverability difficult because of the tight squeeze through the trees. The slippery rutted conditions usually force vehicle wheels to follow the existing ruts. This section requires some driving skills to successfully negotiate when wet. Larger vehicles have an even more difficult time through this section.
The final half-mile of road breaks back out into a small park and dead-ends at the fence marking the end of the road and the boundary of the Geologic Area. This is as far as motor vehicles are allowed. From this point a foot and/or hose trail continues approximately 0.6 mile on to the formations.
Even though the trip is rough and slow, the subalpine scenery is beautiful and more than makes up for the trip. If lucky, elk and deer may be seen on occasion. Coyotes are not uncommon. Gray jays ("Camp Robbers") are plentiful, especially at the end of the road near Wheeler. If you have patience, you can usually have these friendly birds eat out of you hand.
Directions from Creede, Colorado: From Creede, 7.3 miles southeast on Colorado Highway 149 to the intersection of Colorado Highway 149 and Pool Table Road #600 (Spring Gulch). Turn left (north) at the junction and travel northeast on Pool Table Road #600 approximately ten miles to the end of the two-wheel drive road. There is a sawdust pile here which is what remains of the old Hanson Sawmill. The 4-wheel drive road begins at this point and continues for just under 14 miles to the boundary of the Wheeler Geologic Area.
Early Mid-June through October
(NOTE: The road is impassable when wet and is closed to vehicle travel through the muddy Spring season (May-Early June). Generally the road dries out and is open to vehicles about mid/Late June.)