It is approximately four miles to the end of the trail from the parking area. If you want to simply turn back you can, or you can connect with other hiking trails.
Destination Distance From Downtown
2 of 5 diamonds
This is a trail with a moderate grade, nothing too technical.
Time To Complete
Spring, Summer, and Fall
Crossing the river should not be attempted during early spring runoff, but late spring can be very pleasant. This trail is best during the summer into early fall, before snowfall.
The Owen Basin trail is one of many beautiful trails in the La Plata mountain range. This breathtaking out and back climbs into the shadow of Hesperus mountain, with views stretching out onto the Colorado plateau. This is the southern most point of the San Juan mountains and looms over the surrounding desert with excellent views of Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute. Hesperus was the northern boundary of the ancestral Navajo homeland and one of the four sacred peaks. The Owen Basin trail gives you a up close and personal look at Hesperus mountain, the highest peak in the La Platas.
What Makes It Great
This trail provides a mild but steady climb with fantastic views. It follows the south fork of the West Mancos river to the headwaters through groves of magnificent aspen trees. The trail begins with a river crossing after about a half mile, which makes a great place to cool off in the summer while you’re admiring the wildflowers. Smooth river rocks have been gathered to make a path to the other side, but do not attempt crossing in the spring when runoff can cause drastically higher river levels. This area also has a lot of potential for setting up a basecamp if you are interested in further hiking or hunting in the area. From the northern side of the river the trail curves and follows the path of the water upward into dense aspen groves. These ancient aspen forests are breathtaking any time of year, but especially in the fall when the canopy turns golden yellow. There’s something to look forward to with every season in the La Platas.
As the forest opens up the trail leads further to the craggy slopes of the basin, far above the river. Here the views of Spiller, Babcock, Mount Moss and Hesperus become very clear. There are even a few small rock scrambles as you approach the top of the basin. This secluded trail is both entertaining and challenging, rewarding the gentle grade with intimate views of these beautiful mountains. The trail ends at a slide rock area, and here you can turn around and see amazing views of Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute in the distance.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone looking for a fulfilling half day hike in the Rockies will love this trail. The relatively short distance of 8 miles can be hiked in approximately four hours, which leaves plenty of time for exploring other trails in the La Platas, or heading down to Mancos for lunch at Absolute Bakery. Those exploring the area with only a half day dedicated to hiking will enjoy this trail, it is a wonderful example of the area’s diversity and beauty.
Hunters and backpackers will also cherish Owen Basin for its basecamp potential. The close proximity to fresh water and connection with several other trails make it an ideal spot for a basecamp. Hikers can set up camp here and sample the other trails of San Juan National Forest like the Sharkstooth trail and the West Mancos trail from this location. You could easily spend several days here exploring other areas with a light backpack, while being able to leave the bulk of your supplies in Owen Basin. Hunters will also enjoy the basin area for the same reasons. The secluded mountain stream is sure to attract a plethora of wildlife, while also providing access by trail to other prime hunting areas
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Mancos drive east on 160 towards Durango. Three miles out of town there is a large sign for Echo Basin resort, turn left here onto Echo Basin road. Follow this road for about ten miles, as it turns into a gravel forest service road 566, until you see a sign for 566A. Turn left here and follow the primitive road till it dead ends at a road block. From here park, and follow the trail down to the river, where you will start seeing well marked signs for Owen Basin.