Sunday, August 16, 2009

Geyser Springs Trail

The Geyser Springs Trail is a 1.25 mile each way trip to the only true geyser in Colorado. The trail head is about 23 miles north along the West Fork of the Dolores River Road from the junction with Highway 145 which is about 15 miles north of the town of Dolores. There is also access coming south from Telluride along the Dunton Road south of Lizard Head Pass

The trail head parking area appears to be newly constructed for 2009. The trail immediately crosses the West Fork of the Dolores using some large placed stones. As these stones might be underwater during the spring runoff, late summer and fall are the best times to visit here. The trail head area is about 2 miles south of the Dunton Hot Springs site.

When driving past Dunton, it appears to be a well preserved privately owned mining ghost town. It has a low key appearance but is actually a somewhat fancy resort. Among the attractions of Dunton are the hot springs from the same underground thermal source as Geyser Springs.

The trail climbs from about 8500 feet to 9100 feet through aspen and spruce forest with a few views across the canyon. About 100 yards before the geyser there is a small sign that advises foot travel only into the sensitive geyser area. Well before arriving at the site there are whiffs of sulfur and maybe small puddle hot springs along the trail.

The geyser itself is a small pool and looks like the back wall has been constructed. When I arrived there was a boiling appearance. Warm water overflowing the pool drips down a slope into the creek flowing on the backside.

Viewing from the creek side, there is an old inscription that says J Luther 1901. I suppose this is old enough to consider historic and has an interesting story. The Forest Service information on the Geyser says the water is 82.4 F degrees. I dipped my hand in and the turbid water was warm but not hot. I was interested to see if unusual plants would be growing in the warm micro-climate here. There were ferns lining the pool, but they also grow along the creek, so I didn’t detect anything unusual.

I watched the geyser for about 45 minutes. There was good boiling activity as I arrived and it gradually slowed down to more of a simmer, but the water was never calm. About 40 minutes after I arrived the intensity increased again. The water level at the maximum intensity during my visit was about 1 or 1.5 feet higher than at low intensity. There wasn’t any spurting or jets shooting high in the air. Not spectacular but certainly interesting.

It took me about 30 minutes to arrive at the site and 30 minutes back and I lingered and chatted with other hikers for another hour for a 2:00 hour total visit. It was about 65 F degrees in mid August. I carried 1 liter of water but didn’t need to drink until the end of the hike.

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