Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ridge Point Lookout Trail-McPhee Reservoir

The Ridge Point Lookout Trail is the road in the McPhee Reservoir Recreation Area that leads to the campground, boat ramp and a lookout point. The McPhee Reservoir is Dolores River water in southwest Colorado, a little downstream of the town of Dolores.

In winter, when the normal trails are muddy or snow covered, the paved road provides a hard surface to hike on. The road may be closed to vehicles or it will have very little traffic. It is a 4.2 mile round trip to the lookout point, with the option to continue down to the lake by the boat ramp.

At the lookout point there is a concrete compass with interpretive signs identifying the geographical features around the 360 degree views. This is one of three easy to get to view points in this area. Nearby, the Anasazi Cultural Center Interpretive Trail ends at a good view point. The best view point in the area is at Park Point, the highest point in Mesa Verde National Park.

The views to the north and east include two of the nearby mountain ranges, the LaPlatas and the San Miguels with the reservoir in the foreground. The LaPlata Mountains had a lot of gold mining activity, mostly in LaPlata Canyon a little west of Durango.

Many of the trails in the San Miguels near Telluride still have ruins sites and ghost towns along the way. To the west the Abajo Mountains in Utah are visible. Below the view point is the site of the timber town of McPhee, which prospered in the early 1900s, but is now flooded. McPhee processed the Ponderosa Pines which dominate this part of the San Juan National Forest.

There is the short Can Do Trail running 0.5 miles from the nearby campground to the Lookout Point and then another 0.5 miles down the hillside to the boat ramp area. In winter, the trail will often be snow covered and muddy. The information sign says there is an Anasazi site about half way from Ridge Point to the campground.

This area had one of the largest archaeology projects in history, associated with the reservoir project. There are two excavated sites at the nearby Anasazi Heritage Center and several more on the same hill. This hike takes about 2:00 hours for 4.2 miles. I hiked it on a 45 F degree mid November day, a few days after an early winter storm.