Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley
by Nathan Ward.
North Fork to Blank’s Cabin
This is a hike from the North Fork creek drainage on the Colorado Trail from the Angel of Shavano campground to Blank’s Cabin at the base of Mount Shavano (14,229 ft.). The trail climbs steadily to the top of a ridge, with spectacular views to the south. From the top of the ridge, descend into a mature aspen forest for several miles to the meadows where Blank’s cabin used to stand. This is a great hike during the fall when the aspen trees are turning gold.
In early spring and early winter, look for the Angel of Shavano, a snowy valley legend just below the summit of Mount Shavano. The Angel is a story of a Native American princess who prayed for rain to end a drought that was driving her people from the land. Her prayers were answered and her tears were the falling snow, which fell to make the land fertile once more.
There are many options in this area. One is to camp at the Angel of Shavano campground and hike this route, then continue on the Colorado Trail. If you’re fit and get up very early, you could climb Mount Shavano. Or, hike the section of Colorado Trail heading south of the campground – it’s also nice. Finally, just hike the 4WD road up the valley to North Fork Reservoir.
Trailhead Access & Facilities
From the junction of US 50 and US 285 in Poncha Springs, turn north and drive west on US 50 up Monarch Pass for 6.7 miles. Turn right (north) on CR 240 and drive 3.8 miles. After the pavement ends, look for the Angel of Shavano Campground. Park here. (N38 35.05, W106 13.16) Cross the road north and look for the trailhead sign. Alternatively, park in the unauthorized parking by the trailhead sign.
There are picnic tables and a pit toilet in the campground. You must pay a fee to camp here.
Location: North Fork Drainage, North of Monarch Pass
Distance: 4 Miles – Out & Back
Hiking Time: 2-3 Hours
Best Months: June to October
Trail Type: Singletrack
Dog Friendly: Yes
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 9,244; High Point 9,893; Climbs/Descends 621
Land Status: San Isabel National Forest
Maps: Trails Illustrated #130
Note: In late fall, the North Fork drainage is a good spot to hear elk bugling.
0.0 Trailhead – Angel of Shavano Trailhead for the Colorado Trail. Sign the trailhead register and start up the trail. Elevation 9,244 ft. (N38 35.11, W106 13.17)
0.1 Cross a shallow stream.
0.3 The trail climbs steadily. It’s a rocky singletrack at first, but then you emerge from the forest into a grassy meadow. Stay on the main trail and don’t be tempted by the shortcuts. The trails switchbacks up a steep sagebrush ridge.
0.5 Look behind you at Mount Shavano.
0.7 Top the ridge and descend into an aspen forest. There is an old fence on the left and a wooden gate. Follow the singletrack.
1.0 This section of aspens looks spectacular in the late fall when the colors change.
1.1 Cross the stream on a dirt bridge.
1.3 A meadow to the right. Views of the Arkansas River Valley to the east.
1.4 Cross the small stream.
1.6 Cross the stream. The trail swings to the right.
1.8 CR 254 intersects the Colorado Trail. Cross the road and continue straight on the singletrack on the other side.
1.9 A sign for the Colorado Trail.
2.0 This is the turnaround spot for the hike. Elevation 9,834 ft. (N38 35.90, W106 11.90)
The Colorado Trail joins the trail to the top of Mt. Shavano at this spot. On your right (east) a buck and rail log fence surrounds a meadow with a stone memorial to L. Dale Hibbs. Hibbs worked for the preservation of the mountain goats. There is also a sign for Blank’s Cabin, but the cabin is long gone.
Retrace your steps back to North Fork. There are a few trails and signs here so make sure you get the right trail back.
4.0 Back at the trailhead.
We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip into Colorado’s backcountry. Be prepared it could be a long walk out. Be sure to read this list of equipment you should bring on your ride along with tips to make your biking trip more enjoyable.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
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