Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hiking Along the West Mancos River

We've been immersing ourselves in the amazing green all around us, spring is just the prettiest time to be here. The San Juan National Forest lies just North and East of Mancos, CO and the forest roads just a few miles out of town lead to some mighty fine trails.

We headed out to the Transfer Recreation Area (see Part 4 and Map 3, here) passing some amazing boondocking sites in meadows bordered by stands of quaking aspen and fir and pine. We chose to hike a five mile loop that gave us canyon and snow capped mountain views, dropping down to follow the West Fork of the Mancos River at full flow with spring runoff.

Hike specifics: We parked at the West Mancos Overlook, took the Rim Trail South, the Box Canyon Trail down to the river, then the West Mancos Trail North along the river, then the Transfer Trail back up to the truck. That was five miles, then we walked the short and easy Big Al Trail to a viewing platform providing amazing unobstructed views of the La Plata Mountains. Elevation ranged from 8900 feet to 8200 feet at the river, then back up to 8900 feet.

The river segment had some steep ups and downs when the trail had to avoid the river or some obstacle on the bank, but all in all it was a fairly easy hike, especially if you are a lucky soul who is used to higher elevations.

View from the Rim Trail. The West Mancos River goes through the canyon below us.
Taking the Box Canyon Trail down to the river, we passed through a jumble of brilliant green and white aspen.
We were ushered onto the West Mancos Trail by a lovely carpet of bright yellow.
What is this unique looking flower?
We love hiking near the sound and the rush of water.
Here the entire river is channeled between two rocks.
Back up on the rim we had lunch in this bucolic setting.
Incredible unobstructed views from the viewing platform on the Big Al Trail.
We drove on up the forest road and discovered this decommissioned fire lookout tower that can be rented for one or two night stays during the summer. Note: there is a solar toilet but it's on the ground level!

Jersey Jim Lookout
There was a forest service campground right by our parking place, but it was practically empty. I'm not sure why anyone would pay to camp with no hookups when you can camp for free anywhere along the forest road.

Plenty of big rigs boondocking up here.
More big rig space, for free!


  1. Looks like you're following a similar route to ours last summer. We really liked the Durango area, and Mark and Bobbie will show you some wonderful hikes around Ouray!

    1. :) I am a happy camper up here!

  2. Now you are getting into the types of landscape I and lovely! Not much for brown and dry hikes...

    1. Yes indeed...I imagine it's fairly similar to MT. Looking forward to seeing you two in your element!

  3. The flowers are Red Columbine :))
    Re: Jim and Gayle's volunteering us as "guides," yes, we will show you a couple of places that rock, but you must keep them secret :) A little early for the dramatic alpine tundra and wild flowers, tho.
    Box Canyon Mark

    1. :) I can keep a secret! We won't be in Ouray until June 13th and will be staying for two weeks.

  4. What a fantastic hike! Everything is so green. Isn't it neat to see the spring wildflowers! Glad Mark knew the name of that cute red flower. We have a ton of flowers on each hike.

    Wonderful mountain the snow!!

    We will be in Durango tomorrow!!