© Gregory Ochocki / Lake City Photo Arts
The Alpine Triangle comprises roughly 186,000 acres in the high country — nearly all above 9,000 feet and in San Juan and Hinsdale Counties of southwestern Colorado. Its loose borders are contained by connecting the towns of Silverton, Lake City and Ouray—hence “triangle.” Three major watersheds emanate from here: the Animas, the Lake Fork of the Gunnison and the Uncompahgre. The region is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
Some of the most scenic roadways for off-highway vehicles in the west.
“Jeepers come from far and wide to drive the trails of the Alpine Loop,” explained Ty Churchwell, Trout Unlimited San Juan Mountains Coordinator. “This is among the most stunning land in Colorado. Some of the roads top out at nearly 12,500 feet, and have 365 degree views of the San Juans.”
The region was once a key mining center, and dozens of ghost towns and mill structures are preserved along the roughly 65 miles of motorized trails. The Triangle also offers some of America’s finest high-country elk and bighorn sheep habitat.
“If you’re a hard core sheep hunter and pull a ram tag,” Churchwell continued, “you consider yourself very lucky. There’s some excellent small creek fishing as well, though you have to pick and choose, as some have impaired water quality from old mines.”
It would be remiss not to mention the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which travels 45.4 miles along the Animas River…and is the region’s most popular attraction.
This is among the most stunning land in Colorado. Some of the roads top out at nearly 12,500 feet, and have 365 degree views of the San Juans.Ty Churchwell
Get a 4WD vehicle and visit some of the old mining sites and ghost towns.
“It’s like stepping back in time to the 1880s,” Churchwell added. “Make sure to check out Animas Forks, which is the largest of the old mining towns. It’s almost smack dab in the middle of the jeep road network, so it’s easy to find.”
Anglers and other outdoors-people have long known of the dangers posed by the region’s many abandoned mines. The Gold King Mine breach in 2015, which spilled more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater (containing lead, arsenic, zinc, iron and cadmium) into the Cement Creek, made it clear that action was necessary. Trout Unlimited assisted the community in pursuing Superfund status for the Animas Basin, which was granted in 2016. TU has also been leading the effort to enact federal Good Samaritan legislation. This would add significant capacity to the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to clean up the more than 500,000 abandoned mines in the west and others across the country, while also minimizing liabilities for non-federal entities working on remediation efforts.
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Make a Difference
Visit standup.tu.org and tell your members of Congress that you support Good Samaritan legislation to help clean up abandoned mines and improve water quality and watershed health.