This beautiful high-elevation basin is on the southern part of the Alpine Loop, up the valley from Lake San Cristobal above Lake City. With caution, most passenger cars should be able to make it to the basin, but certainly not much farther. You will need to hike to get to ptarmigan and rosy-finch, but this is probably the shortest hike to these birds in Hinsdale County. With a 4×4 you can drive all the way to Cinnamon Pass and down into Silverton. This road is not for the faint of heart, but the scenery is outstanding. The whole area is closed during the colder months.
Habitat: Alpine Tundra, Spruce-Fir Forest, Streamside Willow, Stream
Directions: South of Lake City, take the road to Lake San Cristobal and keep going past the reservoir. About 10 miles past the lake, keep right at an intersection. The road past this point is CR 4, and this is where it gets a little rougher. Drive as far as you feel comfortable driving with your car. If you make it to a fork in the road, the right branch of which heads to Cinnamon Pass, go ahead and park. You're at the bottom of American Basin.
Delorme: 77 A5-A7
Roads of Colorado: 115 E4-F4
Dates of Access: Summer months
Ownership: US Forest Service/Private
Restrictions: Respect private property on the lower portions of the road
Lodging: Primitive camping
Handicapped Access: None