Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Animas Mountain Trail-Durango

The Animas Mountain Trail is one of the Durango, Colorado in town trails. The main loop is about 6.2 miles with a starting elevation of 6600 feet and a high point at about 8100 feet. This is a good trail system during the early summer when the higher mountain trails still have snow.

I used the West 4th Street trailhead that is west from Highway 550 at 32nd street, then north on narrow 4th Street to a rough gravel parking area. I didn’t see any street signs pointing out the trailhead. From the trailhead, the trail is a rough rocky road that climbs steeply at first.
The lower elevation south section of the trail system has several confusing options, but there are map signs at each junction. Even with the signs, it seemed like there were some unofficial trail options that can cause confusion. To the west of the Animas Mountain Trail System there is another trail system called the Dalla Mountain Park that connects. There is access to the Dalla system along Junction Creek Road.
The east side of the ascending loop has the best views. The early segment has views mostly south toward the town of Durango. In mid June the Animas River is running full.

The forest along the east side is dominated by Gambel Oaks with a mix of Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers, Ponderosa Pines, and a few Rocky Mountain Red Junipers. Toward the north end of the area there are some spruce trees. After about 1.5 hours and about 3 miles there is a small bench. From the bench there are views toward Missionary Ridge and north up the valley toward the nearby mountains. Below, the cut off meanders of the Animas River are visible.
The north high point of the Animas Mountain loop overlooks the Falls Creek Archaeological Area and the hidden valley. The Animas Overlook Interpretive Trail overlooks this same area from the west. There are also some views toward the LaPlata Mountains to the west. It took me about 2:00 hours to arrive at this overlook.
The return west side of the loop passes through mostly Ponderosa Pines without any more views. My total hike for about 6.2 miles took 3:15 hours on a 70 F degree mid June day. I saw about 5 other hikers and 3 mountain bikers while I was hiking. I carried and drank 2 liters of water.

532497_120 x 90 Starting Salary $42k. Group 1

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ramparts Hills Loop Trail-Echo Basin

The Ramparts Hills Loop Trail circles around the south part of the Ramparts Hills, 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. It is about 7 miles to the trailhead area near the junction of Forest Road 566 and Forest Road 331, known as the T-Down Park and corral.

The trailhead is marked in two places, on opposite sides of a primitive campsite area. The trailhead elevation is about 9200 feet. In late May, a lot of snow is visible on the mountains just to the east. The trailhead area is mostly Ponderosa Pine and Aspen forest.
I followed the trail counter clockwise. The first segment turns west and follows a creek downhill through a shady forest section with Aspens and Spruce Fir forest. In late May, there were still patches of snow in the shady spots. The Aspen trees were just starting to show green leaves.

I had a Black Bear sighting along this segment. The bear was following the trail heading straight for me, about 100 feet away. I pulled my camera out and made a noise at the same time, and the bear immediately turned into the Aspens and disappeared. I got a picture but not a good one.
The trail emerges between a gap in the Ramparts cliffs and winds downhill crossing the same creek three times.

There are some views to the southwest toward Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute Mountain with several reservoirs visible. This lower area is good elk winter pasture.
After 1:20 hours of hiking through forest and along the creek, there is a segment of trail along a minor forest road. Along this segment there is the ruin of an old cabin.
The cabin is near a large meadow with good views back toward the cliffs. The trail junctions with the road segment are clearly marked. Lupines and Larkspurs were in bloom and Iris was almost in bloom.

The return segment climbs about 800 feet through Gambel Oak forest along another creek. At the base of the cliffs there is a large meadow and then a segment through Aspen forest back to the trailhead.

My hike took 3:00 hours for about 6 miles. It was a 58 F degree end of May day. I carried and drank 2 liters of water. I didn’t see any other hikers during my visit.

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors