Back to the Desert

Day 28: Sargents to Del Norte (111.4 miles, 6,063ft)

Based on the coming terrain—relatively flat—and relative dearth of camping that didn’t require long drives on dirt roads, we decided to pull a long day from Sargents to Del Norte.

We started out early, just after sunrise, and enjoyed 13 easy miles downhill on asphalt. Once we reached Doyleville, we turned south onto well-maintained dirt country roads  and rode through beautiful, open countryside with mountains in the distance.

After a brief jog onto Colorado Highway 114, we continued south on dirt roads, climbing very gradually toward Cochetopa Pass. The open fields gradually became forests as we arrived at the pass, and we enjoyed a beautiful, forested descent down the other side, rejoining highway 114 at the bottom.

Six miles on the highway brought us to a dirt road turn off, heading south. There we turned right and climbed 11, steeper, miles to Carnerno Pass. A long descent awaited us on the other side, through an incredible, rugged valley following the Carnero River. The final few miles of the descent followed paved road that led us out of the mountains entirely, near the little town of La Garita.

From there, our route turned back southwest toward Penitente Canyon and Natural Arches, following a slow, sandy dirt road. Slowly ascending into a headwind, the next 9-10 miles were a slog; but that slog paid off, once we turned south onto a fun double track trail that rolled quickly through desert buttes down to the Del Norte airport.

We added a few miles when, with Del Norte in sight, we had to skirt around the airport; but we soon arrived in Del Norte, where we camped in the town park. Supposedly, we were supposed to register with the police; but the office was closed, and none of the listed numbers got us in touch with anyone who knew about camping. In any case, we set up our tents, and—lucky for us—the maintenance person for the park arrived in the evening to inform us that he’d turn off the morning sprinklers for our benefit. (There was also an elevated stage at the park that we could have camped on to avoid the sprinklers.)

Camping in Del Norte’s city park.