Adoption Status: ADOPTED
21,470 acres (33.5 square miles)
How to get there
There are two main entry points to the Basalt Mountain RA:
- From Basalt, you can hike in from Lake Christine, which is just above the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Sopris Drive. Itís about a 2-mile hike up a 4WD road through Division of Wildlife property before you enter USFS land and the Basalt Mountain RA. Itís pretty much bushwacking from here, although there is a vague trail that sidehills over to Cattle Creek.
- From El Jebel, drive up to Missouri Heights and make a right on FS road 509, which forks after about a mile. The left fork descends to Cattle Creek and gives access to various hiking trails heading northwards. The right fork, FS 524, leads up the north side of Basalt Mountain.
- Itís also possible to access the area from the head of Toner Creek (off the Fryingpan Road) and from Red Table Road (FS 514) via Cottonwood Pass.
- The USGS 7 1/2' quads for Basalt Mountain RA are Leon, Toner Reservoir, and Cottonwood Pass.
The Basalt Mountain RA is a large area that covers not only Basalt Mountain but also most of the upper Cattle Creek drainage. It is separated from the even larger Red Table RA to the east only by the 4WD northern section of Taylor Creek Road (FS 510). It is also contiguous with adjacent BLM roadless land to the west.
It ranges in elevation from 7,000 near the Fryingpan River to 11,000 feet near the Red Table crest and covers a wide variety of landforms and vegetation types. Some of the south-facing slopes are very steep, but much of the area is rolling terrain with mixed sagebrush/grasslands yielding to oak/pinyon/juniper and aspen or dark timber, depending on elevation.
Whatís special about it
Basalt Mountain is an ancient shield volcano, as evidenced by its south-facing basalt-rock cliffs; farther east, the underlying sandstone has been carved into dramatic amphitheaters and formations, such as the Seven Castles towering above the Fryingpan Valley.
Overall, thereís a high degree of naturalness and variety/abundance of wildlife. The lower elevations are winter range for elk, deer and bighorn sheep. The area contains sensitive elk calving habitat, lynx habitat, and historic peregrine falcon sightings. Bighorn sheep and black bears can often be seen in the southern portion of the area. Cattle Creek is a fishery for the imperiled Colorado River cutthroat trout. Basalt Mountain provides critically important low-elevation habitat in the mid RF Valley area as well as a wildlife movement corridor across the mid-valley area between the Maroon Bells Wilderness and the high-elevation Red Table Mountain roadless area. Most of this area has been identified as having high habitat priority by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The globally rare Harringtonís beardtongue penstemon is also found in the area.
Basalt Mountain is an important and easily-accessible elk hunting area. It is also a popular destination for mountain bikers, cross country skiers, and horseback riders, and it provides a scenic backdrop for communities in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley.
Old-growth logging has been proposed for the portion of the unit atop Basalt Mt., so allowing new road construction could enable that shelved project to be dusted off and pursued.
The Forest Service has divided this roadless area up into three units Ė A, B and C Ė because they have different uses allowed on them, but this isnít a crucial distinction for the purposes of roadless area protection. The three units total 21,470 acres, according to the Forest Service. If Taylor Creek Road FS 510 (a ratty, old, road to nowhere) were closed, the resulting Basalt Mountain/Red Table/Gypsum Creek roadless complex would be over 84,000 acres (131 square miles) in size.