Uncomphgre River Walk
Here in Montrose Colorado, as the leaves turn and the air gets crisp, the upper mountains tend to get a little muddy and wet from fresh snow storms. This hike, just outside of Ridgway Colorado, is quite suitable for kids and those looking for a mellow yet gorgeous jaunt in the great outdoors. Dogs abound on these trails as well.
Several options are available for starting points. A favorite starting point for a longer hike is in Ridgway along the river (parking and starting point is north of town park, just past the fire station and library). Another option, is to start at the Dennis Weaver Memorial, where you can either head toward Ridgway along the walking path or south on the single track.
The section between Ridgway and the Dennis Weaver Memorial meanders along the Uncompahgre river and is fully paved and stroller friendly. Once you get to the Dennis Weaver Memorial, the single track starts and you actually start hiking. The Eagle Alley Trail is one of our favorites.
The options as far as mileage and time are fairly open as you can continue to connect trails or just stay put on the paved section. Wildlife is abundant; water foul, birds of prey, and all kinds of other creatures frequent the trails. So the next time the high country is snowed out, mellow out along the Uncompahgre river near Ridgway.
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This moderate to difficult Snowshoe adventure (depending on snow depth) is a really fun jaunt just 10 minutes south of the town of Ouray Colorado and close to an hour drive south from Montrose Colorado.
From Ouray, head up Red Mountain Pass via Highway 550 toward Silverton. After you pass through the first tunnel and the waterfall overlook, look out toward the left for the giant Engineer Pass trail signs (about 3 miles or so past the first tunnel). The giant signs above the pull-out on the left are hard to miss.
The trail ascends moderately the entire way. Look for really cool mini-ice-falls as you ascend up the canyon. These icicle features are just appetizers for the main course. Keep your eyes pealed for ermines (white mink like creatures with black tipped tails). Also, be on the lookout for rabbit tracks as they are plentiful along the trail. As you finish the final switch backs up the trail, you will make one final climb until the trail narrows parallel with the creek and steep views below. As the trail levels, you’ll come upon a majestic ice melt fall. This is the apex of the climb and the scenery.
From the trail head, the snow shoe hike is about 1.5 – 2 hours round trip and about 1.3 miles up one-way.
Make sure you bring a Thermos of hot coco and snacks and dress with layers as you may get really warm during the assent and sometimes end up in only your base layers.
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We started at 6am; breakfast burritos and instant Starbucks coffee, served cold. Yuck! We rode a shuttle that drove us 1.5 hours to the trailhead of the two-day Zion Narrows backpack trip trail head. Equipped with packs, trail running shoes, and trekking poles, we descended down the first section of the Virgin River. Our first steps in the river were cold at first since it was still 8am. As we hiked down through the river, ponderosa pines towered above us, posting themselves on small cliffs and ledges. The red sand stone began to surround us as we descended further down the river corridor.
We were so glad we brought trekking poles with us. Hiking through a riverbed is not as easy as one might think, especially with a backpack full of gear. This first section was Ian’s favorite; there were almost no people and we felt like we had the whole canyon to our selves.
As the temps rose to 90-plus degrees, hiking through the river was quite energizing. The deep narrow sandstone walls provided an abundance of refreshing shade. It hardly felt like a strenuous hike due to the epic surroundings.
Every hour or two, the call of a Canyon Wren would echo through the narrow passage. The Canyon Wren served as a friendly reminder that we were truly in Utah Wilderness. The hot desert complemented the lush riparian landscape as sandstone gates loomed thousands of feet above, twisting upward through the light and shadows.
We camped at a beautiful site with side canyon hikes near by. I made fettuccini Alfred over our camp stove. The stars were amazing. Only the rustling of Ring Tail Cats attempting to steel our food broke the sound of the rivers gentle and constant tumbling.
The next day was truly inspiring as we encountered natural springs, hanging gardens (similar to Hawaii in beauty), and even deeper sandstone canyon views. This was truly a trip of a lifetime.
Several weeks ago, I made the spontaneous decision to go on a night hike and backpacking trip to the Blue Lakes. The Blue Lakes are located at the base of Mt. Sneffels in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The trail is a 3.5-mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,630 feet. We had just finished work, and were up for a challenge after spending all week in the real estate office.
Equipped with headlamps and peel-apart Twizzlers, we started the 2-hour night hike at dusk. Though the sun was setting, we could still see the purple and red Columbines and waterfalls along the steep winding trail. We could also see clouds beginning to build. I was a little scared as it began to get darker. I was concerned that we might come across a bear so I kept talking and singing to scare away any critters that might have been ahead of us.
At last we arrived at the lower Blue Lake, sweaty and amped from the hike. As we were setting up our tent, I heard something rustling in the bushes. I was terrified and was sure it was a bear! Ian walked over to the moving bushes with his headlamp. Much to my relief, the noise was coming from two frightened porcupines trying to get as far away from us as possible! They were so cute and much more welcome than a black bear.
We calmed our nerves as we sat on a giant log. We watched the clouds clear and open up to a full and starry night sky.
The next morning was one of the most memorable mountain moments of my life. The lake was crystal blue and the jagged Sneffels peak (14,150ft) towered above. The air was crisp and clean, and there were hardly any other campers to disturb the peace.
I highly recommend this hike. The Blue Lakes trailhead is easily accessible from East Dallas road and can be reached without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The first 1.5 miles of the Blue Lakes trail is the hardest and has the most elevation gain. Be prepared to cross a small creek and get ready to enjoy an abundance of wildflowers. For the ambitious, you can continue on the trail past Lower Blue Lake and head up the mountain to the Upper Blue Lakes, the saddle, and the peak. The Blue Lakes also make a great base camp for climbing Mt. Sneffels.
Nestled between Ouray and Silverton, Ice Lake is a destination hike with rich rewards. I ventured upon this hike with my husband, Mom and Dad a couple weeks ago. I cannot say enough about the beauty and great place. The round-trip hike took us about 4 hours, but probably could be completed in 3 hours if we were going at a faster pace. The trail is a good combination of flats, switchbacks, and gradients.
A few minutes up the trail we were all surprised to hear the roar of an impressive waterfall. You can actually walk through the waterfall that pours over the trail headed toward clear lake. Ian just about gave me a heart-attack as he got close to the waterfalls steep edge and faked like he was falling off (the little stinker).
The wildflowers were just beginning and are now in full bloom as I type. The Indian paintbrush were out in full color and we saw miniature red Columbines everywhere. The Delphiniums were in abundance, but hadn’t flowered yet. I especially liked the skunk cabbage that graced the meadows with their large light green leaves.
The last push of the hike had quite a bit of elevation gain, but the views of the valley and many waterfalls were absolutely incredible. When we finally arrived at Ice Lake, (which was just above tree line), we were rewarded with the most incredible turquoise colored lake set against the ragged ridge-line of the San Juan Rocky Mountains. We enjoyed lunch lakeside and then quickly headed back down when the thunderclouds started to build.
This destination is now high on my favorite hikes list; get out and enjoy it this summer!