Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ramparts Hills Forest Roads-Echo Basin

The Ramparts Hills are an igneous rock outcrop in the Echo Basin area of the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. The Echo Basin Road is a north turn off of Highway 160 about 3 miles east of Mancos. Forest Road 566 continues where the pavement ends. 

The area near the junction of Forest Road 566 and Forest Road 331 is known as the T-Down Park and there is a corral just west of the junction. The Echo Basin area is promoted as a winter sports area and there is an interpretive sign describing some of the species that winter in the area, including elk and the rare Lynx.

The Ramparts Loop Trail has a trail head near the T-Down corral and there is another trail head at the primitive campsite that is visible about 200 yards to the west. The Ramparts Loop appears to be a new trail as it doesn’t appear on any of the area maps and isn’t mentioned on the Forest Service website trail information page.

The trail is open to horses, bikes, hikers, and motorcycles. The first clockwise segment heads south and enters aspen forest and then passes through a meadow area with good views to the west. Turning west, the trail re-enters forest and descends along the drainages on the south side of the Ramparts Hills.

I only continued for 0:45 minutes and then turned around while still on the south side of the hills. I wasn’t sure how long the loop was, and my original hiking goal was to look for the views that might be on top of the Ramparts Hills. (There is another post where I hiked the whole loop, use labels to find.)

Near the T-Down corral, Forest Road 331A is visible and leads along the south cliff of the rocky outcrop. There forest on top of the Ramparts is very mixed with Ponderosa Pines, Junipers, Gambel Oak, and maybe some Lodgepole Pines out at the west tip.

It took me about 0:30 minutes to hike out to the end of this segment of road with great views to the west. The road splits at about the halfway point and I stayed to the left. From the view point I could see the Ramparts Loop Trail curving around and heading north, but I couldn’t see where it goes from here.

There are at least four reservoirs visible as well as Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute Mountain. In mid September, the Echo Basin area is open for Elk Hunting by archers. There were several groups in the campsites preparing for the hunt. I spent a total of 2:30 hours hiking in the Ramparts Hills area, and there are more roads and trail to explore.

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