Low Alpine Hiking

[July 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage] By Ninah Hunter

HIKING THE SPECTACULAR SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS is a favorite activity in and around Ridgway. At the time of this writing, many of the high alpine favorites were still under snow or debris from snowmelt. While you’re waiting for those trails to clear, why not try these lower alpine hikes? Come fall, with its crisp, cool air, and as aspens are turning, many offer jaw-dropping, colorful scenery

Hiking from the trailhead at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk. (Ninah Hunter)

Hiking from the trailhead at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk. (Ninah Hunter)

Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail. One of the easiest hikes is the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail along a paved cement path. It’s dog (on a leash), stroller, wheelchair and bike friendly. Start at Hartwell Park in Ridgway and head north. Cross over the River on the old railroad trestle bridge. Stop for a picnic lunch or rest on one of the benches along the river at the BLM Water Park, then continue north to the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. Enjoy its peaceful stacked-rock Medicine Wheel and awe-inspiring 2,800 lbs., bronze eagle statue before heading back to town.

 Boot Hill, the summit of the old stagecoach trail in the Dennis Weaver Park. (Ninah Hunter)

Boot Hill, the summit of the old stagecoach trail in the Dennis Weaver Park. (Ninah Hunter)

Dennis Weaver Park Trails. From the parking lot, there are several, wonderful, single-track, dirt trails radiating from the Park. To the south, there is a nice loop trail along the river starting from within the Park. Going north from the lot, take Old Stagecoach Trail up to the top of Boot Hill for some of the best views of the San Juan Mountains and valleys below. Several alternative trails branch off Stagecoach in different directions, looping back along the mesa or along the River back to the parking lot. Many of these trails have been improved or created by the RAT (Ridgway Area Trails) Group.

Enchanted Mesa. Enchanted Mesa is, indeed, enchanted. Start at the trailhead in Pa-Co-Chu-Puk. The first leg is a series of switch-backs for about a half mile to the top. Enjoy some spectacular views as you climb. Once on top, it’s mostly level as you travel south along the edge above the lake. Enjoy more stunning views looking south toward the Sneffels Mountain Range. Go as far as you want before turning around.

Overlook Point. A short but worthwhile hike is from the Visitor’s Center at Dutch Charlie to Overlook Point where you’ll find a lovely amphitheater and wooden deck positioned high above the Ridgway Reservoir. The view south of the reservoir with the San Juan Mountains as a backdrop is breathtaking! To extend your hike, walk on down the unpaved Cookie Tree Trail along the escarpment to the bottom along the lake into the Dallas Creek area of the State Park. Just remember, you’ll have to hike back up!