Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Owens Basin Trail from Echo Basin

The Owens Basin Trail is a 3.5 mile route toward the base of the LaPlata Mountains near Mancos in southwest Colorado. It can be thought of as a side trail from the West Mancos Trail that has a trail head at the Transfer Campground. There is also an access from Echo Basin.

The Echo Basin road is a north turn from Highway 160 about 3 miles east of Mancos. The paved road becomes Forest Road 566. The access to the Owens Basin Trail is after a left turn onto Forest Road 566A. It is 10.6 miles from Highway 160 to the trail head, with the forest road passing the Ramparts Hills, and the meadow areas of T-Down Park and Lucy Halls Park.

The elevation at the trail head area is about 9600 feet. The initial segment on the old forest road descends about 300 feet to a crossing of the South Fork of the West Mancos River. In mid July during a dry year this was an easy crossing. 

Continuing on there is a junction with the West Mancos Trail that begins at the Transfer Campground 5 trail miles away to the west. It took me 0:30 minutes to arrive at this junction. About 5 minutes of hiking further east, the West Mancos Trail splits off to the left and climbs toward the Shark’s Tooth Trail. The Owens Basin Trail continues to climb to the east.

The trail passes through Spruce and Fir Forest with Aspens mixed in. There are several large scree slopes along the way. On one of the scree slopes there has been some retaining wall construction that is probably from the mining era. I could hear the squeaks of pikas at these scree slopes but I didn’t see them.

Wildflowers were better in the moister higher elevations during a relatively dry year. In mid July there were many butterflies among the flowers. The best name I could find for this one is the Hesperis Frittillary. I also saw many black and white butterflies that resemble the one known as Weidermeyer's Admiral. Shoulder high Larkspurs, Monkshoods, and Evening Primroses were the most impressive wildflowers I saw. I didn’t see any large wildlife but I saw one blue grouse. 

I think the mountains most visible near the top of the Owens Basin Trail are Burwell Peak at 12, 664 feet to theright and Spiller Peak at 13,123 feet to the left. There are good views of the headwaters of the South Fork of the West Mancos as the water tumbles down in a cascade.

To the left of Spiller Peak there might be some glimpses of Babcock Peak at 13,149 feet. I stopped after 2:30 hours at a good view point that was at the top of some steep switchbacks near the end of the trail. There was a large tree covering the trail at that point obstructing the last  0.25 miles. 

The peaks further to the left are obscured somewhat by the forest. I think there were some Sub-Alpine or White Firs growing at this viewpoint. There are good views across this scree covered basin. A creek flows out of the basin but there isn't a lake. The elevation of my stopping point was about 10,700 feet. 

My return hike took 2:00 hours for a total hike of 4:50 hours for about 8.5 miles. It was about 65 F degrees on a mid July day with no threat of afternoon rain, and I carried 3 liters of water. I saw 2 other hikers and 8 horse riders during my hike.

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors

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