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Colorado Adventure 2010 | Day 2
Thursday, August 26, 2010

“Boy, she’s a bonanza!”

Those were the words a prospector shouted two miles upstream from Bonanza. That’s how the town got its name….and Bonanza would be my destination for the second day of my adventure. This town’s population jumped quickly to around 5,000 in 1880, and those people left just as fast in 1890. I would be exploring the roads that they once traveled and would stop to check out the old mining relics along the way.

Before I could get to Bonanza, I would have to head out from camp. I followed a loop from the side road I had camped along to make my way back to the highway.


When I reached CO 114, I headed southeast to Saguache and filled up my fuel tank. From there I continued on to Villa Grove and then took a left onto the main road that heads into Bonanza along Kerber Creek.

Pretty soon I had reached my destination.

Unfortunately, Bonanza is all private property, so you can’t really do much exploring of the old buildings in town. I did snap a few photos from along the road.



You can check out this cabin at the townsite of Exchequer, which is a few miles north of Bonanza.

Soon I turned off the main road to check out the Slaughterhouse / Kerber Creek loop trail.

Cocomongo Mine and Mill



Before reaching the end of the loop, there was a sign to Mosquito Lake, so I figured that I would check it out.


When I reached the main road again, I made my way over to the Rawley Mine

Here there was an informational board about the Bonanza Off-Highway Vehicle Tours in the area. There were even some nice color-coded maps of the trails.

All of the main trails on the map were also signed and color-coded to match the maps. Some time and effort has been put into these trails here, and it shows!

Next I started up the Adler Creek trail.

….where I soon reached the upper portion of the Rawley Mine. There were plenty of buildings and structures still standing. I checked them out and took some photos 🙂








After leaving the Rawly Mine, the trail continued to climb until it reached the Shawmut Mine and Round Mountain.

There was a trail up to the top of Round Mountain, so I had to head up there.


Nice views from the top at 12,036 feet.



After leaving Round Mountain and heading back down the other side of the mountains, I came across another mine shaft.


Pretty soon I was back at the highway. I headed back south to the start of the Turquoise Mine trail…..which brought me back into the mountains again.

This trail then connected me to the Whale Hill trail which would bring me back over 12,000 feet and above tree line.

Climbing Whale Hill

On Whale Hill…..the San Luis Valley and Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background

At the top of Whale Hill, there was another spur trail that I decided to follow. This spur ended up taking me over the peak of Mount Manitou and then back down to Round Mountain again.

Mount Manitou (12,010 feet) straight ahead

That pile of rock to the right is the peak of Mount Manitou

I love these roads above tree line


After heading back and finishing the Whale Hill trail, I was back at the Rawley Mine again. This time I would head north and follow yet another of Otto Mear’s Toll Roads.


This wagon toll road once connected the towns of Bonanza and Shirley. The cost was 10 cents from all who entered the gates at each end.


There were some nice views from the highest points along this old toll road.


Back down on the other side. This trail is also known as Toll Road Gulch

Once past the old townsite of Shirley, I made a detour up Poncha Creek to reach Marshall Pass.

A few hundred feet from the pass, this fox crossed in front of me and stopped to watch as I passed by.

I continued on to reach the pass.

Before leaving the pass, the fox I had passed before came over and sat right outside the door of my Jeep looking up at me.



I sat and watched him for a little bit before I had to start heading down the old Marshall Pass railroad grade to Mears Junction. It was time for some fuel again, so I made my way to Salida for gas and a bite to eat.

I still had one trail to complete in the area, but it was getting late. I headed over Poncha Pass and then followed the short Poncha Loop trail to Clover Creek. Here I found a nice campsite with a nice view of the Sange de Cristo Mountains.


A little rain in the distance.

That rain and those clouds would make for a nice sunset before I got some sleep.




It was definitely a full day, but also a lot of fun!

The full photo gallery from this day can be found here: Bonanza Photo Gallery

Stay tuned for the next three days of my adventure. To be continued…


  1. Lisa
    Lisa June 27, 2015

    beautiful pictures….my dad grew up in Villa Grove and when his father passed away in 1939 is step mother put him on a train to Indiana. Every summer we went to Colorado and every state out West. I remember going to Bonanza as a kid. the family station wagon never got as far as you did though, My family and I are headed to Villa Grove in a few days. I think we will take a trip up to Bonanza. Thank you

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat June 30, 2015

      Cool story, thanks for sharing. Have a great trip!

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