Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dolores Canyon Overlook at Dove Creek

There is a marked turnoff for the Dolores Canyon Overlook on the south side of Dove Creek, along Highway 491 in southwest Colorado. From the turnoff it is 10.4 miles to the Overlook. There are BLM signs marking the way.

The Overlook is on a point of land high above an entrenched meander of the Dolores River downstream from the Bradfield Bridge area of the Lower Dolores River. There is a short trail out to a view point with picnic tables along the way. The Dolores River is visible on both the east and west sides of the view area. The elevation at the Overlook is about 8000 feet and the river is at about 6200 feet.

At the end of the trail there is a constructed view point. Directly north, the point of land visible is known as Mountain Sheep Point. Below, the Dolores River makes a sharp turn from north to south.

Flowing south for a short distance, it makes another sharp turn back to the north around Mountain Sheep Point. Below the south tip of Mountain Sheep Point, the access road from Dove Creek arrives at the canyon bottom where rafters can access the river and hikers and others can follow a rough road downstream for at least 12 miles.

There isn't an official trail along the canyon rims, but the terrain is open enough to allow some hiking. There may be the remains of an old road along the rim that cows now use. I walked for about 0:30 minutes south along the west rim. The road that descends into the Dolores Canyon to the river access
is visible across the canyon.

After 0:30 minutes south I turned east and it took 0:25 minutes to arrive at the east rim. The road is much closer to the east rim than the west rim. The terrain in between is Gambel Oak and Ponderosa Pines and was mostly easy walking. The only obstacle was the thicker patches of the oak. There is a fence to cross near the road. From the east rim I took 0:35 minutes to arrive back at the parking area. 

I thought these views and the terrain were similar to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose, Colorado. But despite the spectacular views, the Dolores Canyon Overlook is only an obscure site that is lightly visited.

On the road near the overlook I saw a Blue Grouse and I think I saw two coyotes sprinting across the road. There was a third animal about the same size as the coyotes but with a more lumbering gate. It wasn't large enough to be an adult bear, but may have been a young one. I just got a brief glimpse.  I spent 2:00 hours for about 3 miles of walking on my visit on a 75 F degree mid August day.

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