Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ridge Trail (Dillion Pennisula/Nature Preserve)

Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,100 ft - 9,300 ft
Elevation Gain: 200 ft (net), 350 ft (estimated) (cumulative)
Date Hiked: 22 June, 2011
Dogs: Unofficially off leash
Bathroom at trailhead: No

The view of Buffalo Mountain from the Ridge Trail in the Dillion Penisula/Nature Preserve

The Dillion Nature Preserve/Peninsula is a rarely visited (by non-locals) spot for running, dog walking, and mid-day hiking. It is a pleasing area with several pleasant overlooks with views of the Tenmile and Gore Ranges.

The parking lot

Looking at the social trail that bypasses the road. It cuts across the bike path and then heads sharply uphill.

The route I am going to discribe here you won't find in a guide book, because it takes advantage of a social trail to bypass having to walk along the bike path and road and instead sticks to a more naturalistic setting.

Still on the social trail as it cuts through the fence and is about to head down into the gulch.

The trailhead for this hike begins in a large parking lot across from Cemetery Road on Highway 6 going from Dillion to Keystone. The normal route for this hike is to head down the bike path for 0.4 miles until it intersects with a dirt road and then take this another 0.4 miles to the entrance of the Dillion Nature Preserve. Instead of this route, I followed the rather obvious trail that goes from the parking lot straight up the hillside to the west. This is a total calf burner, but well worth the effort since it allows the hiker to avoid the road.

Half way down the gulch, look at the lake

The intersection of the Ridge Trail. The signage in the preserve is well marked.

The calf burner social trail dumps into a small Sagebrush meadow with houses on the far side. Cross this meadow on the trail until it comes to a T. Take the right fork and you soon pass through an open fence and down into a wide gulch that looks down onto the lake. Take this trail until it starts to descend the gulch. It will be transparent, but a short way down this social trail merges into the Meadow Trail of the Nature Preserve. At 0.52 miles is the large brown sign for the Ridge and Meadow Trails. The Meadow Trail is back the way you came, while the Ridge Trail is to the left. Turn here and head up the left side to the top of the ridge that borders the gulch.

A typical early trail segment. Dirt trail with Lodgepole pines.

The Ridge Trail winds through a Lodgepole forest, many of which were still alive at the time of this writing. At 0.78 miles is another junction with the Meadow Trail, which loops off to the left. Continue on the Ridge Trail. At 0.90 miles is the turn off to the first overlook.

The view of the Tenmile Range from the first overlook

The view sitting on one of the benches at the first overlook and looking southwest

This overlook has several benches that look down into finger of Lake Dillion with views of Peak One. It was easy to linger here and enjoy the early spring sunshine and the smell of pine needles baking in the heat.

Crossing the top of the ridge towards the west

At 1.27 miles the trail starts to head down the other side of the ridge. At 1.38 miles is another nice view of the lake just as the trail turns sharply to the right. At 1.52 miles is a turn off to another overlook. This one heads up some rock steps to a promontory with more views of Peak One and Buffalo Mountain.

Buffalo Mountain can be seen because of the downed Lodgepoles

At 1.91 miles the Ridge Trail finally dumps out onto the dirt road that to the left will take you to the pumping station for the Harold Roberts Tunnel and to the right will take you back to the parking lot. The Harold Roberts Tunnel is a 23.3 mile long water diversion tunnel that cuts through the continental divide and transports water from Lake Dillon to Grant, CO where it is further transported into the South Platte River and onto thirsty Denver.

The view from the overlook where the trail turns sharply to the right

Looking up the road towards the distant parking lot, out of view around the far bend

I took the right here and after traveling 0.34 miles down the dirt road, came to the sign for the Dillion Nature Preserve. I was debating whether to take the road back to the car or go back up the gulch and back down the social trail. That choice won out since it was more scenic. This turned out to be a good choice. Mountain Bluebirds and their birdhouse homes dot the lower gulch and flowers mixed with the Sagebrush to make a pleasant stroll back up to the top. It was a quick "slide" back down the social trail to the parking lot.

The entrance to the preserve

Heading back up the gulch

For those who live in the area, the Ridge Trail on the Dillion Pennisula along with the Tenderfoot Trail, and the Old Dillon Reservoir make for a relaxing after work hike with the dogs. Check it out if you have not already done so.

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