Images of gnomes, ghosts and even references to “Dante’s Lost Souls” come to mind in many first encounters with the Wheeler Geologic Area. The rock formations, badlands, and vistas at Wheeler are truly remarkable, bringing imagery similar to Bryce Canyon or the Badlands of South Dakota.
In 1908 Wheeler National Monument was established in the name of explorer George Wheeler who first surveyed the area, it was the first national monument in Colorado. The monument was later downgraded to a geologic area when visitors greatly decreased after World War II.
OHV 4×4 Drive – A challenging off-road experience awaits the intrepid 4×4 enthusiast as 14 miles of rutted two-track road winds through narrow rocky ravines, muddy, nearly impassable washouts and very rough terrain. You’ll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle or ATV.
East Bellows Trail – The East Bellows Trail is a nine-mile long, high altitude adventure that rises 1,900 feet to a high point of 12,700 feet above sea level. Hikers and horses are welcome on the length of the trail, with mountain biking limited to the section of the trail before it crosses Bellows Creek.
Hikers will get their feet wet crossing Bellows Creek since the original bridge is no longer in service. The last mile-and-a-half of the trail joins the 4×4 r0ad before reaching the Wheeler Geologic Area.
Wason-Park Inspiration Point Trail – A more challenging hike begins behind the Baptist Church in the town of Creede. The Wason-Park Inspiration Point Trail is a rigorous 12.5-mile hike to the area. Locals and hikers alike refer to the first three-and-a-half miles as “Perspiration Trail” since the climb up a series of switchbacks is steep and unrelenting.
Recreation – Horses and allowed as well as hikers, but mountain bikes are only allowed to the wilderness area boundary.
Facilities – No water, no toilet
If you’re looking for solitude on the trail, this area is for you. With its challenging approaches, it is one of the lightest used geologic areas in Colorado. The area is open year-round and has no access fees. Winter conditions shut down most of the trail with June to September offering optimal conditions.
Camping – Camping is available at the trailhead as well as primitive camping along the trail. No camping is allowed within the area of the geologic formations. Campfires are not allowed near the formations either.
Traveling to Wheeler Geologic Area is an adventure in itself. The first step is to travel towards the isolated town of Creede. You’ll first need to reach the town of South Fork, where the junction of Highway 160 west and Highway 149 north is.
Head north on Highway 149 toward Creede. The trails all begin at the termination of U.S. Forest Service Service Road 600, known also as Pooltable Road. The exit is 11 miles south from Creede on Highway 149.
Address: Off Highway 149, Creede, CO 81130
Season: Open year round, but June to October is best for 4×4/hiking trail; otherwise snowed in