Friday, July 31, 2009

Gold Run Trail-Bear Creek

The Gold Run Trail is a 2.5 mile multi-use route that provides access from Haycamp Mesa to the middle part of the Bear Creek Trail in the San Juan Forest near Mancos in southwest Colorado.

The trail head is about 7 miles north of the Transfer Campground along Forest Road 561. It can also be reached from Forest Road 556 leading east from Dolores, CO

The elevation at the trail head is about 10,700 feet and the forest is mostly Engelmann Spruce and Aspens. This trail appears to be popular with horse riders and the trail head area has some extra facilities for managing the horses. The trail switchbacks down the hillside mostly through deep forest with an elevation change of about 1700 feet.

There are a few open meadows spots giving views across the Bear Creek canyon. The Bear Creek Trail has a trail head along Highway 145 about 22 miles north of Dolores, CO. The Gold Run Trail junctions with the Bear Creek Trail at the Bear Creek 6 mile mark. After the junction, the Bear Creek Trail pushes further east toward the LaPlata Mountains and connects with other mountain trails.
There is a bridge crossing Bear Creek at the trail junction and some interpretive signs discussing trout and stream habitat. The life cycle of trout is summarized and the importance of pools and streamside plants is discussed. There was a project here to improve the trout habitat. Logs and rocks were placed in the stream to increase the number of pools and plants were added along the banks. The water here looked crystal clear. The spruce trees along the creek might be called the Colorado Blue Spruce.

I stopped my hike at the trail junction and returned back to the top. I saw one group of horse riders and one group of motorcycles during my hike. Mid-summer wildflowers were good along the trail with a lot of the colorful Indian Paintbrush. Probably due to the use by horses, there were a lot of flies in the meadow at the bottom near the Bear Creek.

The interpretive signs indicated that cattle grazing along Bear Creek was halted in 1987. It took me about 1:00 hour to descend to Bear Creek and 1:20 to climb back to the trail head and my total hike was 2:40 hours for the 5.0 mile round trip. It was about 60 F degrees in late July, partly cloudy and there was a brief shower while hiking back up.

Visitors to the Gold Run Trail area approaching from the Transfer Campground will go past the Jersey Jim Lookout Tower. An interpretive sign indicates that the tower has mostly been retired, with airplanes and satellites now providing the fire lookout coverage.

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