Great Day Trips from Ridgway, Colorado
BLUE LAKES TRAIL: MT. SNEFFELS WILDERNESS
This is a beautiful hike leading up to 3 glacial lakes at the foot of Mt. Sneffels (elev. 14,150). The trail wanders through Engelmann spruce and meadows of wildflowers to the Lower Lake. Hiking to the upper lakes climbs above timberline and provides amazing views along the way of the surrounding peaks and the lower lake with its crystal glacier blue waters. In late July the wildflowers are at their amazing peak. In early September the mushrooms are incredible and in later September you will experience the golden tundra, fall colors and snow dusted jagged peaks. It is a local’s favorite!
Summary: The trail starts at elevation 9,400, with an elevation gain of 1,600-ft and a distance of 6.6 miles round trip to the Lower Lake. Hike an additional mile and gain an additional 700-ft to the Upper Lake. The trail is rated Moderate to the Lower Lake and Moderate – Difficult to the Upper Lake. Allow 3 to 5 hours for the Lower Lake hike and 5 to 7 hours for the Upper Lake hike. Full description in the Visitors Guide.
Directions: Drive about 5 miles west of Ridgway on Hwy 62 and turn left (south) on East Dallas Road (CR-7). Travel another 9-miles on CR-7 (a good gravel road) to the trailhead.
Spectacular scenery around our charming Colorado town caught the attention of the director of the 1969 film True Grit, starring Academy Award winner John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In 6 weeks the film crew turned the center of this old railroad town into 1880’s Fort Smith, Arkansas, complete with Hanging Judge Parker’s 3 man gallows. The firehouse now survives as an artist studio, and the livery stable became the post office.
The paddy wagon from the movie sits in Heritage Park on the southwest corner of Hwy 550 and 62. A short walk up Clinton Street, past the Sherbino Theater, leads you to the living quarters of Rooster Cogburn. Be sure to visit the John Wayne themed True Grit Cafe and check out the actor and movie memorabilia.
The Ridgway Chamber offers a 1 hour True Grit Movie Walking Tour which departs every Friday at 11 am from the Ridway Visitors Center. (May through October) Call for reservations 970-626-5181. $10 for adults / under 12 free
Head on out on a day trip to find some of the famous movie sites as well as the state’s most photographed mountain scenery. Ten miles west of Ridgway, on Last Dollar Road are the remains of the movie’s family ranch of Mattie Ross (Kim Darby). And to the East, towards Owl Creek Pass, sits the aspen lined valley of Katie’s Meadow – one of the most memorable scenes from True Grit. Pick up your free Movie Locations Guide at the Visitors Center.
SAN JUAN SKYWAY
One of Colorado’s premier Scenic and Historic Byways, the San Juan Skyway laces the San Juan range under azure skies of southwestern Colorado. A 236-mile loop drive, it reveals the very heart and soul of the San Juan Mountains. This memorable drive visits nineteenth-century mining towns of Ouray, Silverton, Telluride and Rico, as well as agricultural communities of Ridgway, Dolores, Cortez, Mancos and Durango. The roads wind through the shadow of impressive 14,000-ft peaks. The segment from Ouray to Silverton is called the “Million Dollar Highway”. But you can’t put a price tag on this experience!
This route is a 236-mile loop and can be driven in 6 hours, but you’ll want to stop and sight-see at lots of places along the route. You can make this into a nice 2-day trip with an overnight stay in the Durango or Cortez area. From Ridgway drive south on Highway 550 to Ouray, then continue south – over the Million Dollar Highway – to Silverton. Continue south on Highway 550 to Durango, then west on Highway 160 to Cortez. From Cortez, go north on Highway 145 to Tellride, then on to Placerville. At Highway 62, turn right and continue east back to Ridgway. This route could also be taken in the reverse order. You might want to combine this trip with the Trail of the Ancients and visit Mesa Verde near Cortez.
OWL CREEK PASS
Follow the trail of Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) from the movie “True Grit”. This beautiful drive – suitable for 2-wheel drive vehicles – winds on a dirt road through forest and pastoral landscapes. It offers great views of high and jagged Cimarron Ridge, the 12,152-ft monoliths of Courthouse Mountain and 11,781-ft Chimney Rock. This route is especially appealing in late summer and early fall when the leaves range in color from green to gold to crimson!
Take Highway 550 north from Ridgway about 2 miles to County Road 10. CR 10 is a dirt road – turn right. CR 10 then intersects with CR 8 (FR 858). Follow the signs to Silver Jack Reservoir. If you continue on Road 858 it will meet up with Highway 50 east of Montrose. Turn left and take Highway 50 into Montrose, then turn south on Highway 550 and return to Ridgway. Along the way to Silver Jack Reservoir, there are 3 worthwhile side trips: Road 860 (6.9 miles round-trip) along the West Fork of the Cimarron River; Road 861 (9.2 miles round-trip) along the Middle Fork of the Cimarron River; and the more rugged, potentially muddy (18.5 miles round-trip) Cow Creek detour on Road 857. These 3 side trips may require 4-wheel drive. On the drive back to Montrose along Highway 50, there is another worthwhile side trip. At the town of Cimarron turn right and drive back to see Morrow Point Reservoir Dam along the Gunnison River.
4-Wheel drive adventure route through historic mining country of the San Juan mountains. One of Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways, the Alpine Loop leaves pavement and people behind! Rough terrain and two 12,000-ft passes – Cinnamon and Engineer – require a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle, but mining history, ghost towns, majestic alpine views with ample jeeping, hiking & camping opportunites make it well-worth the challenge. For those with only 2-wheel drive, travel south on Highway 550 – the Million Dollar Highway – to Silverton and take the road up to Animas Forks ghost town. You won’t be sorry!
Take Highway 550 south from Ridgway to Ouray. The northern start of the Alpine Loop is 3.7 miles south of Ouray and requires a high-clearance 4-wheel vehicle. For a less demanding route, continue south on Highway 550 to Silverton. From Silverton take Colorado 110. The 12-mile route to Animas Forks is very scenic and historic, but does not require 4-wheel drive.
RIDGWAY STATE PARK
This beautiful park offers breathtaking scenery, 3 campgrounds with modern facilities and 3 cozy yurts to reserve. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the many hiking and biking trails along with wildlife viewing opportunities. The park is a favorite for fishing, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, picnicking, the swim beach, playgrounds and group event facilities. More information can be found at www.parks.state.co.us/ridgway
LAST DOLLAR ROAD & TELLURIDE
This scenic 4-wheel drive back road takes you to Telluride. Via Highway 62 west from Ridgway you’ll cross Dallas Divide – one of the most photographed places in Colorado. You’ll see why! Last Dollar Road winds through aspen groves, alpine meadows full of wild flowers, and towering peaks then drops you down into the red walls of the San Miguel River basin and to Highway 145 into Telluride known for its world-class skiing and summer festivals.
From Ridgway, take Highway 62 west over Dallas Divide for approximately 12 miles. Watch for the sign for Last Dollar Road. It will be a left turn off the highway onto a dirt road. At the fork you may go right and follow the road into the town of Sawpit. Or continue left on Last Dollar Road (638) into Telluride. At the Telluride airport Last Dollar becomes a paved road then junctions with highway 145. Turn left and take 145 into the town of Telluride or go right, then shortly turn left and take 145 up to Mountain Village and ride the free gondola down into town.
“No other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison,” Wallace Hansen wrote after studying the geology of the region for several years. Black Canyon National Park is only 30 miles from Ridgway via Highway 550 north to Montrose, then Highway 50 east. Plan to spend time visiting the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose along your way.
Take Highway 550 north to Montrose, then go east on Highway 50 to Colorado 347. This takes you into the park. Start your visit at the Visitors Center. It provides excellent information about the park, as well as maps for driving and hiking. Along your way stop at the Ute Indian Museum just south of Montrose. It offers beautiful dioramas and changing exhibits dedicated to the history of the Ute Indians of this area.
Unaweep Canyon knifes through soft red sandstone of the Uncompahgre Plateau all the way to Precambrian times. See the “Hanging Flume” dangling precariously off the canyon walls – used by miners during the copper boom of the late 1800s. Drive on to the “atomic” town of Uravan, where the U.S. Army produced uranium for the first atomic bomb. Above all, this ageless desert region offers sheer scenic wonder – striated cliffs towering a 1000 feet overhead, raging streams, and boundless skies.
From Ridgway head west on Highway 62 to Placerville. There the highway becomes 145 – continue to the right to Naturita. Highway 145 becomes 141. Continue on Highway 141 to Uravan and learn about the uranium from this area. Watch for the pull-off and sign for the “Hanging Flume” above the Dolores River. Highway 141 continues to Gateway then drives through the Unaweep Canyon, past the “Unaweep Seep” and the remains of Drigg’s mansion at the foot of Thimble Rock. At Whitewater turn right and travel south on Highway 50 through Delta and Montrose, then continue south on Highway 550 back to Ridgway.
TRAIL OF THE ANCIENTS – MESA VERDE
This route is laden with cliff dwellings, rock art and other clues about the civilization of the Anasazi – the “Ancient Ones” to the later Navajo. Mesa Verde National Park is just under a 3-hour drive from Ridgway. Plan on visiting the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores for background and interpretive information, and take a short drive over the Utah border to Hovenweep National Monument
Take Highway 62 west from Ridgway, over Dallas Divide to the junction of Highway 145 at Placervile. Turn left onto Highway 145. Continue on Highway 145 past Mountain Village and Rico to Dolores. Visit the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores. From Dolores continue south on Highway 145 toward Cortez, then take Highway 160 east for 8 miles to the Mesa Verde National Park entrance. To visit the Hovenweep National Monument, take Highway 160 west back to Cortez from Mesa Verde. From Cortez travel north on Highway 666 to Pleasant View then turn left and follow the signs to Hovenweep.