Ida Gulch Road

November 5, 2011 at 10:07am

A number of climbers have asked if the Ida Gulch Road, the road we use to access the base of Sister Superior, is open. Well, it is, but only in a legal sense. There is a sign near the start of the road that indicates the road is on private property and is thus closed. This sign is actually intended to pertain to a side road and not the main road up Ida Gulch. In other words, ignore it and continue on your way (but don't go up the side road) if you can.


Like we said, "if you can". The Ida Gulch road is an official county road. However, the only property owner it accesses is The Nature Conservancy. According to the BLM, The Nature Conservancy sees no reason to keep the road open. They plan to keep said-land primitive and thus need no car access. The Sorrel River Ranch uses the road and some associated trails for horse back rides. However, they do not need more than a path for their horses to follow. That leaves us, the climbers, as the only group that ever uses the road.

As is the case with many of the roads in Grand County, this route through Ida Gulch is considered unimproved.  That means its rarely, if ever, worked over by road prepping heavy equipment (bulldozer).


Flash floods tend to make a horrid mess that leaves the road impassable. As we are the only ones who ever use it, and the BLM budget in Grand County is a bit stretched for roads, there is no plan to begin "improving" it.


This leaves the road in a state that is not navigable by low clearance vehicles and perhaps not even by high clearance vehicles that one really cares for. One other thing to keep in mind, if you do use the road, is that the land near the approach trail up the talus ridge is on Nature Conservancy property. They want the land to be in a natural state, so parking off the road in areas where the crypto-soil is making a comeback would be strongly frowned upon. We recommend you park as soon as you see the first sign indicating that The Nature Conservancy is the land owner and begin hiking from there.


So the Ida Gulch Road is open, but only to hearty high clearance vehicles and only until you reach The Nature Conservancy's private land. This leaves one trying to figure out where to best approach the tower from. We don't think its shorter to go from the Castleton Campsite and following the ridge past The Priest, though it is far more scenic. From just a mile or two up Ida Gulch puts you closer to the tower, but the hike is mostly on soft sand and leaves a few more miles of approaching. The short of it is this makes Sister Superior a far more ambitious day of tower climbing than it was before. The good news is that you will likely have a far more private day on the tower now that it is that much harder to get there.


Stay tuned to the Friends of Indian Creek page for any possible changes on the approach to Sister Superior.