Enchanted MesaDate: 6/9/2014
Miles: 6.5 round trip
Type: in/out or shuttle
Time: 2 ½ hours
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 38° 13.092’N , 107° 43.843’W
Maps: Ridgway Trail Map, RidgwayDutchCharlieMap, RidgwayPaCoChuPukMap
Park Website: Ridgway State Park
View Enchanted Mesa in a larger map
The Enchanted Mesa trail is located within Ridgway State Park located about 22 miles south of Montrose Colorado. The trailhead as described here begins within the Dutch Charlie section of the park and towards the northern end of loop “C”. You have to utilize two shorter trails which are the Porcupine Patch trail and the Mears Bay trail to reach the actual Enchanted Mesa trailhead. These two trails add an extra 1.1 miles to the route. The trail ends just below dam and at the PA-CO-CHU-PUK campground.
To access the park from Grand Junction Colorado you need to travel south on US-50 for approximately 60 miles until you reach Montrose. Once in Montrose US-50 turns into US-550 south. Continue straight through Montrose for another 22 miles or so until you come to Ridgway Reservoir. Take the second entrance which is the Dutch Charlie and Visitors Center entrance.
There are a number of trails located within the park ranging from easy to moderately strenuous. The Enchanted Mesa trail is the longest in the park and the hardest. Ridgway State Parks website list the trail as only 2.5 miles but that is only one way. The round trip option plus the added mile at Mears Bay makes the total trip about 6.5 miles.
From the beginning of the Porcupine Patch trail you follow a small dirt trail down a small wash to where it connects to the paved Mears Bay trail. Once at the paved trail turn right and follow the trail around the bay until you come to a small gazebo overlooking the marina. This section of the trail offers some great views of Mt. Sneffels and the San Juan mountains to the south.
Once at the gazebo the trail turns to dirt but remains fairly wide as it begins climbing up the side of the hill. There are some great views of the reservoir as well as the mountains to the south. I have also seen deer grazing along the hillside on a previous visit so keep an eye out for wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife, this is a fairly well used trail, we only seen about three groups of people while we were on it but it was still a little early in the season. Even though it is well used there is a possibility of running across the un-wanted type of trail user in the form of a bear. We spotted one of those furry critters just foraging around on the side of the highway barely a mile away from the trail on the way up. The big fellow didn’t seem to afraid of us as we stood on the side of the road and took pictures while the cars sped by, he just looked at us and continued strolling around. The attendant at the park entrance said bears had been spotted within the park. For everyone’s safety if you don’t have one you should invest in a can of bear spray. Bear spray is a very strong pepper spray that reportedly deters bears rather well. Fortunately I haven’t had to use mine yet, not only does it work with bears but it would work with most any wild or domestic animal including the two legged human variety. I carry the “Fronteirsman Bear Attack Deterrent”.
Once past this beginning steep section the trail levels out fairly good and begins to follow along the edge of the hill above the reservoir. As I stated before, this trail offers some great views of the surrounding area and also a fabulous birds eye view of the reservoir below.
The trail continues to wind and curve its way around the hillside as it crosses a couple bridges and dips in and of small ravine type areas and through sections of wooded areas and past a small pond. There are also benches set up along the way at many of the nicer overlook areas as well.
The last portion of the trail along the top offers up a beautiful scene of wide open fields with awesome views of the Cimarron’s in the backdrop. You can easily see the prominent Chimney Rock standing tall next to Courthouse Mountain.
Once at the rim of the mesa the trail begins descending to the valley floor via a series of switchbacks and ultimately ends at a small parking area in the PO-CU-CHU-PUK campground just below the dam. This is the point where we turned around and headed back. This last section and the beginning section are the two hardest parts of the trail. It is these two sections that caused me to add the strenuous rating to the trail.
This is a fantastic trail that was really fun and had many photo opportunities. Definitely a “must do” hike if you’re staying at Ridgway State Park.