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Weird place Wednesday: Wheeler Geologic area.

Wheeler Geologic area

Near Creede, CO, Wheeler Geologic area is definitely a rock formation like no other.

I have seen a lot of weird places in my travels and shot some very strange locations. Every week I plan on sharing a new place that may not often be visited or that you may have never even heard of. I am calling “Weird place Wednesday.” Some may be just around the corner and some are much more difficult to get to. Many photographers are guarded about sharing locations they have spent a lot of time researching, but I would like to share these amazing places with you and give you the details of what you can expect. It’s amazing out there, and I hope you can experience it as I have. Be sure to check back each week for somewhere new!

Our first Weird place Wednesday location is Wheeler Geologic area. Wheeler is an amazing set of rock formations located in southern Colorado east of Creede.

The decimal coordinates that you can plug into Google Maps or GPS are: 37.880951 -106.783504

The turn off from Hwy 149 is a dirt road called “Pool table road.” This is a popular Jeep and ATV road, so expect some off-road traffic. The path to Wheeler is well signed and it would be difficult to get lost, but once the normal dirt road ends, things turn a lot more rocky. The road to Wheeler Geologic area is a very long 13 miles (one way) full of tight forested turns, open meadows with stream crossings, and large dips. Did I mention that it was long? I would recommend no less than a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, and when I say high clearance, I am not talking about a Toyota RAV4. I drove a 2008 Dodge RAM Quad cab 4WD and there are places that I wish I would have had a bit more clearance. I must admit, the road was rougher than I was envisioning. With a full size truck, there were certainly times where it was difficult to negotiate between the line I wanted to take on the road and the tree limbs that I wanted to avoid. A gentleman in South Fork described Wheeler as “Worth it but you’ll never want to do it again.”

There is a hiking option to get to Wheeler that avoids the rough road. It’ll cost you about 14 mies round trip, not including the 3+ mile loop of the Geologic area itself. Either way you choose, you will find several nice camping areas at the end of the road along with some parking near the trailhead of the loop. There is a small creek that runs not far up the trail, that is the only water source around so take plenty with you. The elevation at the camp area showed over 11,000ft, so make sure to take some warm clothes as it will get chilly at night even in the summer.

I did not hike the entire loop around the Geologic area but there is a well-defined trail. If you are scrambling up rocks where it looks like few have been, you are not on the trail. Details of the the area can be seen from east to west, while some amazing grand overlooks are in store on the west side looking west. Venturing off the trail provides many opportunities to explore, just know your limits, help is very far away.

Even though the rock formations are incredible, there is one thing that stands out about the surrounding vegetation; the condition of the trees and the lack of green. Unfortunately, it’s a death zone of pine beetle killed trees. The surrounding forest has been devastated in the past few years and it is very difficult to find any green pine trees at all. Standing at our campsite near one of the few partially green trees, I could hear the sound of something “munching” on wood. On closer inspection, I could actually see and hear pine beetles boring into this tree. It really is a shame because although this area is amazing regardless, it would be breathtaking if the forest was still green. Looking at past photos, it seems this has happened in only the last three to five years. On the plus side, if you opt to have a fire in camp, there is no lack of firewood.

Pine Beetles

Pine beetles bore into a tree at Wheeler Geologic area in southwest Colorado.

Interestingly, Wheeler Geologic area was originally a National Monument, designated so in 1908, Colorado’s first! Understandably, it did not retain it’s National Monument status due in part to its inaccessibility. Wheeler was transferred back to the Forest Service in 1950.

For a more extensive history of Wheeler: Wheeler Geologic Area history.


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