Friday, June 25, 2010

Weber Canyon Trail

The Weber Canyon Trail is the dirt road segment of County Road 41 between Weber Mountain and Menefee Mountain south of Mancos in southwest Colorado. County Road 41 is an extension of South Main Street. The route changes from paved to gravel to dirt as it goes south.

(The Weber Canyon Fire at 5:00 PM June 23, 2012 from Highway 145 between Cortez and Dolores.)

I started my hike 5.6 miles south of the intersection of South Main and Highway 160 at a point a little beyond the start of the dirt road segment. This whole route can be easily driven and a hike could start anywhere.

Both Weber Mountain and Menefee Mountain are BLM land areas but seem to have few public access points. They both look like detached islands of Mesa Verde, with the sandstone cliffs and Pinon Pine and Juniper forests. Weber Mountain on the west is 6303 acres and Menefee Mountain to the east is 7089 acres.

Both areas rise 1500 to 2000 feet and are supposed to be rich in wildlife. The Pinon Pines here don't seem to have suffered from bark beetles like other nearby forest areas. There is about 3.5 miles of hiking along the dirt road before a gate that says private property.

About 1 mile before the gate there is a vaguely marked section where both Weber and Menefee can be accessed from the same point on the road. This section is about 0.25 miles long and is just south of a series of three ponds. At the end of the access segment there is a BLM sign that says no access to public lands beyond this point.

The access west to Weber Mountain has a fence around it and there is a deep eroded wash to cross before reaching the mountain slopes. This might be the only access to Weber and there are several obstacles. Menefee Mountain to the east has several points where it can be accessed including across from the fence. The hike along the road was scenic and there was no traffic.

I didn’t see any trails but I tried hiking uphill on the Menefee side. The lower part of the slope was open enough to climb without much trouble and there is a shelf area that isn’t very hard to reach. I went a little above the shelf but there are layers of steep cliffs above and I stopped about halfway to the apparent top.

There are some good views up above but mostly the forest is thick and the views are blocked. I haven’t seen any information that there are ruins sites on Menefee or Weber Mountain. I didn’t see any sign of ruins in the limited area where I hiked. I scanned the cliffs that I could see from the road but didn’t spot anything.

It took me 1:20 hours to hike the road segment and I spent about 1:30 hours climbing up the Menefee slope. My total hike was 4:30 hours on a warm late June day. I started at 8:30 when the temperature was 70 F degrees and it was 85 F at 1:00 PM when I finished. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

There is a similar hiking opportunity on the west side of Weber Mountain. County Road 38 runs between Mesa Verde on the west and Weber Mountain but access to the public lands is blocked by private property, only the views are available. A highlight of the alternate hike is that the Mancos River flows close to County Road 38.