Saturday, September 5, 2009

Smelter Mountain Trail in Durango

Smelter Mountain is the area south west of the intersection of Highways 550 and 160 in Durango in southwest Colorado. It is part of the Bodo State Wildlife Area. Traveling past this relatively dry looking mountain you might notice the many radio antennae on top.

The most popular trail head for hikers is near the junction of Highway 550 and County Road 211. There is a small parking area designated for hikers but no other signs at the trail head. From the trail head the route climbs steeply for about 1 mile with about 1200 feet of elevation gain and provides wide views up and down the Animas River Valley.

I started my hike at a more obscure trailhead about 1 mile south of Road 211 at the west side of the Bodo Park business area. There is a short dirt road that seems to provide service access for the large power line. This southern trail head might be favored by hikers that want to climb the 7844 foot Carbon Mountain.

After the dirt service road ends there is a vague trail that continues up the ridge and swings south toward Carbon Mountain. I didn’t see a clear trail leading to the peak. The Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper terrain gave way to a thicket of Gambel Oak.

There may be a peak route that I didn’t see, but at the thicket I turned toward the north and worked my way down to Road 211. The Carbon Mountain climb could be a separate hike from Smelter Mountain, but I did them both as a loop.

County Road 212 makes a nearby junction with 211 and leads to the top of Smelter Mountain and the many radio towers there. The Road 211/212 route is a way to the top for mountain bikers. There is some industrial activity in the Bodo Wildlife Area. Large power lines and gas lines pass through and there is a large stabilized tailings pile that looks like a dam.

In September 2009 there is also construction work for Lake Nighthorse, a new reservoir that is primarily for water supply for several of the Indian Reservations in the Four Corners and also for the cities of Durango and Farmington, NM.

A new 280 cfs pump station has been installed on the Animas River near Santa Rita Park. Pumping began May 4, 2009 and as of September 2009 the reservoir is about 20% full. It is estimated that the lake will take 18 months to 3 years to fill. The planned volume is 120,000 acre feet.

Road 212 extends for about 3 miles past numerous towers. There are good views on both sides of the road.

After the last radio tower the road transitions into a trail and descends toward the southeast to the Road 211 trail head.

The views to the north are of the most interest toward the city center of Durango and the mountains just to the west. 

My total hike took 4:45 hours for about 7 miles including my lunch stop in the developed area in the Bodo Park commercial area. Most hikers will probably choose either the Carbon Mountain route or the Smelter Mountain trail and not do both on the same hike. I carried two liters of water on an 80 F day in early September, and drank another two liters at lunch near the finish.


18407_$5 Shipping on Orders of $99 or More!

No comments: