Utah & Grand Canyon North Rim - Part IV (Oct 5 - 9, 2020)

Continued from Part III...

After a very full week of hiking and driving, we took the entire day off on October 5 to rest and plan for a leisurely and scenic "take the long way" home.

Tuesday morning we left Kanab early and headed toward Page. We made it to Horseshoe Bend while the morning light was still decent. We had been there while staying in Page a few years before the area was developed and admission was charged, but the facilities were most welcome! 

Horseshoe Bend, near Page, Arizona

We stayed in Cortez so that Wednesday morning we could run Ophir Pass again. This is one of our favorite 4WD roads with tons of bang for the buck. We came up through Dolores and Rico on scenic Highway 145 and turned off onto D65 and went through the tiny village of Ophir before switching Moby into 4x4 low range and driving up through the still-colorful aspen. 

The views open up as we started to get above treeline

Looking back down on the village of Ophir from near the top of Ophir Pass

A jeep heads down the narrow shelf road we just came up

We spent a little extra time near the top of the pass visiting with the local Pika.

An American Pika (ochotona princeps) busily gathers plants for his haypile

Our 4Runner "Moby" about to head down the east side of Ophir Pass

Running Ophir pass from west to east brings us out on Highway 550 aka the Million Dollar Highway, where we turned north towards Ouray. 

Town of Ouray

Driving past Ouray where we would spend the night, we went on to explore the area around Owl Creek Pass in the Uncompahgre Mountains. This is a fabulous spot in the fall and we can’t wait to go back and do more. 

The drive up to Owl Creek Pass is gorgeous, even if the aspen was a little past prime

We stopped in several places to walk around in the aspen groves, scoping out trails we might want to hike next time. 

We took a short 4x4 trail to Rowdy Lake, too. And we found so much to explore on the other side of Owl Creek Pass: Silver Jack Reservoir, East, Middle, and West Forks of the Cimarron River, Courthouse Rock, and much more!

Rowdy Lake

Chimney Rock

After Owl Creek Pass, we checked into our hotel in Ouray, and ate our "dinner" out of the ice chest, and turned in early. 

On Thursday morning, even though we were an easy day’s drive back to Dillon, we decided to take another day to explore Curecanti National Recreation Area and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, so we planned to stay overnight in Gunnison. 

We walked down to the Morrow Point Dam, then hiked the canyon west along a sweet path loaded with colorful Gambel Oak. 

Susan below the Morrow Point Dam on the Gunnison River

We hike on the Mesa Creek Trail, below the dam

Mike, near the end of the short hike down the river

On our way out we checked out the very nicely done Cimarron Canyon Rail Exhibit.

Locomotive and cars from the Denver & Rio Grande Western on display near Morrow Point

After stopping at Morrow Point, we went on down the road towards Blue Mesa Reservoir. Our plan was to hike out to the Dillon Pinnacles, but it was just a little too hot for us that day so we’ll have to go back. We did hike out a mile or two for a nice leg stretch.

Looking over Blue Mesa Reservoir with the Pinnacles in the distance

The trail out to the Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

After an easy day, we stopped in Gunnison for the night. We went into town to get dinner to bring back to the hotel, and found that one of our favorite brewpubs, High Alpine Brewing Co., had a large open garage door open to the street. So, for the first time since March, we ate at a restaurant, instead of doing takeout. 

Ready to eat!

The next morning we drove up toward Crested Butte, and turned off to take scenic Cottonwood Pass. We stopped along the pass to hike up to Lost Lake. Very pretty hike, and only a bit over 3 miles with only 400 ft of gain. A bonus for us was seeing pika its habitat right at the edge of the lake. 

Along the trail to Lost Lake

An unnamed tarn we detoured to on the way up

Pano of Lost Lake

Lost Lake -- the talus field at center left is where we observed the pika

Last look at Lost Lake before we headed back down the trail to the car

After the hike, we drove on to Dillon via Buena Vista, Fairplay, and Breckenridge. What a fun trip!

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