Top of the Pines Named August 2021 RACC Member of the Month
How did the Top of the Pines recreation area come to be?
Originally a Girl Scout camp, the 175-acre property was purchased by the nonprofit Top of the Pines, Inc. in 2002, after the Girl Scouts no longer wanted to support the camp. TOP transferred ownership to Ouray County so it could be maintained as county open space for public enjoyment. The facilities and activities at TOP are managed, operated and funded by the nonprofit under a special use permit with county.
What makes TOP special?
At 8,600 feet in elevation and about six miles south of Ridgway off of County Road 5, TOP features the iconic Mount Sneffels Range as a majestic San Juan Mountains backdrop. The nonprofit provides a regional educational facility with rustic outdoor recreational opportunities for the use of individuals, families, public and private groups or organizations, while preserving the land for open space, wildlife habitat and protection of its starry dark skies.
What types of activities can people do at Top of the Pines?
TOP has hiking and mountain biking trails, and last year added nine holes of disc golf with another nine holes planned later in 2021. TOP’s tent campground includes potable water, tables, pit toilets, and charcoal grills. The majestic backdrop makes for a popular venue for educational and special events, retreats, and weddings. In winter TOP offers more than four miles of groomed cross country (Nordic) ski and snowshoe trails. TOP’s pristine dark skies make for a perfect location for astrophotography, amateur astronomy and appreciation of the starry night sky unique to the area.
Do people have to be members or pay fees to use it?
Day use of the trails and disc golf are by donation. A fee schedule for camping and reservations of the grounds for special events is located on the TOP website. Very reasonable individual and family annual memberships are available for frequent users. Fees from reservation of the facilities and tax-deductible donations help with major infrastructure projects.
How does TOP play an important role in Ridgway’s International Dark Sky Designation and related activities?
TOP’s pristine dark skies are among the best in western Colorado and complement Ridgway’s International Dark Sky (IDA) designation by providing a public venue away from any nearby lights for citizens and visitors to fully appreciate the starry skies in the area. Ridgway complements TOP by providing the lodging and restaurant opportunities for visitors to the area. In August TOP will be sending its own application to be an IDA Dark Sky Park.
Please tell us about the TOP events coming up in August.
TOP will have a free Open House and BBQ picnic on Saturday, August 7 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. to showcase its facilities. Also, TOP will be hosting a Dark Sky event August 9 to 12 to celebrate the starry sky in the area and Ridgway’s designation as an IDA Dark Sky Community. The free Dark Sky program will feature workshops each evening followed by constellation tours and a Perseid Meteor Shower Watch, which peaks during that week. Both events are free, family friendly and open to the public. More information can be found at www.topofthepines.org.
What do you value about being a Ridgway Chamber member?
The Ridgway Chamber provides broad, professional promotion for TOP, its recreation and educational opportunities, and helps highlight the Dark Sky asset at TOP.
Learn more about Top at https://www.topofthepines.org/, visit TOP at
1035 Highlands Dr., Ridgway, CO 81432, and contact TOP at . For information about nonprofits and educational organizations in Ridgway, go to on https://ridgwaycolorado.com/businesses/museums-education.