Enchanted Mesa

Round Trip Distance: 5.2-7.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
MTB Skill level:
Elevation: 6713 - 7044 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: Mears Bay/Pa-Co-Chu-Puk
Fee: $7/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic views

The Enchanted Mesa trail is located in the Ridgway State Park north of the town of Ridgway, Colorado. The south end of the trail begins at the north end of the Mears Bay trail, a 1 mile long paved path that travels around the east side of Mears Bay where the swim beach and marina are located. From the Mears Bay trail the route leads up and over the Enchanted Mesa where there are great views of Ridgway Reservoir and the surrounding mountains. At its north end the Enchanted Mesa trail makes a steep descent off of the mesa and comes to an end near the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk campground. By itself the Enchanted Mesa trail is 2.6 miles long but by the time you add in the 1 mile length of the Mears Bay trail the total round trip distance will be around 7.2 miles if you hike or bike the entire length.

To get to where the trail begins follow the Mears Bay trail from the picnic area in the Dutch Charlie area of the park. The Mears Bay trail is paved with very little elevation change.

The trail begins climbing at a moderate pace through the pinion and juniper forest that covers the sloping hillside.

Within the first quarter mile the trail levels off a bit and travels close to the water providing access to some excellent fishing spots.

As the trail nears the mouth of the bay it makes a steeper grunt of a climb up the side of the mesa.

The trail soon levels off again as it travels high above the east side of the reservoir where the going gets so easy that you practically forget about the climb it took to get there.

For your effort you get to enjoy the elevated views of the area. Mt. Sneffels (14,157 feet) can be seen in the middle of this photo.

There are some steep dropoffs along the trail. In the places where the trail gets the closest to the edge it is fenced for the most part but if you have small children in tow the dropoffs are something to be aware of.

Near the middle of the mesa the trail makes a little descent followed by a similar ascent to cross the drainage of a small stream that feeds into the reservoir.

After passing above the dam end of the reservoir the trail comes to an overlook of the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk area where it begins its big descent off of the mesa. A sign at this point warns mountain bikers to dismount. If you are on a mountain bike and plan on returning by the same route you might consider locking your bike up and leaving it here. It isn't a pleasant chore to wrestle it down the mesa and back up again.

The slideshow should have enough pictures to get a feel for what the hillside is like at this point. There are a handful of sharp switchbacks and numerous steps and rocks to get over. It isn't too bad to hike as long as you aren't hassling with a mountain bike.

The trail comes to an end along the service road leading up to the dam. If you follow the road to the right towards the campground or day use area you will find several nice restrooms.

At the time of this post the Ridgway State Park is known to be the home of a mama bear and her cub as well as one papa bear. This is a picture of the mama bear that was taken on the east side of Enchanted Mesa. Her cub was nearby but none of our pictures of the two of them together came out all that well. They were actually over a hundred yards away and we were using a zoom lens so as not to disturb them. The sun was going down so the light wasn't very good for taking pictures. The bears like the Enchanted Mesa area so you might keep an eye out for them and don't get too close.

The rangers in the Visitor Center have a nice free map of all of the trails that you can ask them about. It has more trails on it than the brochure that they offer at the pay station. We put together a one page map that you can also print out and take along just in case the Visitor Center doesn't happen to be open. Ridgway State Park is open all year round. Although not all of the campgrounds are open in the winter the trails will be. If you are looking for a trail that is a little longer and with less traffic then the Enchanted Mesa trail is one to consider. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is grab your bike or 'Take a hike'.