[October 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]
Now that the seasons are changing (fall morphing into winter), it’s time to swap out your favorite flip-flops or Teva sandals (aka Colorado Rocky Mountain hiking boots) for a different kind of footwear. With so many outdoor activities to enjoy during these seasons, there is no reason to hibernate.
Ninah Hunter, hiking, Boot Hil, Ridgway, Coloradol.
You can keep your hiking boots or trail running shoes on throughout most of the fall. Hitting the trails is a great way to enjoy the fall colors. Drive up Owl Creek Pass, where you can choose among several trails, such as Middle Fork, Courthouse Peak, or Wetterhorn Basin. The many aspen groves in their golden glory and the paint-by-number hillsides, ablaze in autumnal hues, provide endless photo opportunities.
Another great fall hiking area is up County Road 5. Stop at the parking lot just before entering the National Forest. The fall foliage against the impressive backdrop of the Mt. Sneffels Range makes this a favorite spot for photographers. From the parking lot, carry on down the road (which turns into Forest Service Road 852) till you hit the trailhead to the Dallas Trail. You may need a 4-wheel drive or have to park before the trailhead. Then, take the Dallas Trail to Moonshine Park. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular sweeping views of the Ouray Valley below and the Cimarron Mountain peaks to the east.
Cross-country ski and snowshoe, Ironton Park. Ouray, Colorado.
Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing
Once the leaves stop falling, and Jeep roads and hiking trails are blanketed in snow, it’s time to trade in the hiking boots for snowshoes or cross-country skis. Some of the best Nordic trails can be found at Ironton Park in the Red Mountain Mining District, about 6 miles south of the City of Ouray. Maintained by the Ouray Nordic Council, these trails are groomed for all types of use; i.e., classic cross-country or skate skiing and snowshoeing. Nearby Priest Lake, maintained by the Telluride Nordic Association (TNA), is another great alternative, providing several dog-friendly trails.
Other favorite Nordic ski areas include the beautiful Top of the Pines, about 6 miles south of Ridgway; Trout Lake, which follows the historic Rio Grande Southern Railroad line from Lizard Head Pass to Trout lake; and Black Canyon of the Gunnison just east of Montrose, which also has wonderful snowshoe trails separate from the Nordic ski trail. Some of the finest, groomed cross-country ski trails in the state can be found on the Grand Mesa.
Grab your crampons and ice pick and head to Ouray County for one of the most unique and world-renowned winter activities—ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park. If you’re a novice, you can participate in a clinic, like those offered by San Juan Mountain Guides. Or just enjoy the spectacle at next year’s annual Ouray Ice Festival, January 23-26, 2020.