Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chicken Creek Trail to Jackson Lake

The Chicken Creek Trail has a Trail Head in Mancos State Park in southwest Colorado near the north shore of Jackson Gulch Reservoir. It runs north for about 8 miles before merging with the Morrison Trail.

 It can also be accessed from the Rim Trail near the Transfer Campground in the San Juan National Forest near the town of Mancos. I started my hike at the point where the Rim Trail crosses Forest Road 561, about 1 mile south of Transfer campground. This point can also be used to start two other loop hikes on the network of trails in this area.

Following the Rim Trail southwest for about 1 mile down into the Chicken Creek Canyon, I connected with the Chicken Creek Trail and continued south toward Jackson Gulch Reservoir. From where I started it is about 5.3 miles to the lake.

The trail mostly follows the creek, crossing several times and providing opportunities to get your feet wet. In this valley, the west side is dominated by Ponderosa Pines and the east side by Engelmann Spruce and Douglas Firs, with Aspens and Gambel Oaks mixed in.

There appear to be two historic sites along the trail. About 2 miles along the route a small creek joins from the west. In the area of the creek junction there are some old timbers and some sandstone brick remains of some sort of structure.

There isn’t any information at the site but it looks like some kind of mining operation was here.

About a mile further, there is a small wooden sign that says “Deans Sawmill Site”. There is a collection of metal artifacts still laying here.

I suppose in 700 years these artifacts will be sought after like pottery shards from the Ancestral Pueblo sites.

About 2 miles before Jackson Gulch Reservoir, the trail climbs out of the Chicken Creek Canyon and winds southwest to the north shore of the lake. Up to this point the trail doesn’t offer any views, instead it is a deep forest hike. This reservoir is the water supply for the town of Mancos and maybe for Mesa Verde National Park.

There are some good views across the lake to the nearby LaPlata Mountains. Instead of retracing my steps on the Chicken Creek Trail, I followed the Mancos State Park Road east around the north shore and then cut through a short section of open Ponderosa Pine forest north and east to Forest Road 561. This was a quicker route back to my starting point. It took me 3:15 hours to cover the 5.3 miles to Jackson Lake and 1:45 hours to return. My total hike on this looped route was 5:00 hours for about 9.6 miles.

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