You can avoid the down hill by taking a series of roads further east.
I think you take 87A instead of 87. This takes you down to the Los Pinos river. Cross the river and ride along the north side for a few miles. Then there is a slightly steep but not rocky uphill. Then there are pretty good dirt roads out to CO 17. You can cut west to pick up the CDR up FR 250.
This would be a much better route north to south. But to tell you the truth I don't think there is much difference going south to north. You are trading a rocky downhill for an uphill.
Be sure to check a map and plan your route. If you PM me I can send some GPS tracks.