Flickr album link: Dolores Canyon Overlook
There is plenty to see and do along Highway 491 between Cortez, Colorado and Monticello, Utah. This tourism corridor is the pathway to Bears Ears, Canyons Of The Ancients, Hovenweep, Mesa Verde, Southern Ute attractions and Four Corners, which are all popular summer season destinations. There are also several San Juan National Forest access points along this road that go to Dolores River Access Points and the McPhee Reservoir, where traditional summer season outdoor activities abound. Dove Creek is one of the vestiges of civilization on this long section of road and right next door is the access point for the Dolores Canyon Overlook, which is a great destination for those who wish to see the natural beauty of this region.
The Dolores Canyon Overlook definitely is a lesser known destination hidden in plain sight, simply because the majority of travelers are in a big hurry to get to the major tourist attractions at either end of Highway 491. In effect, this part of the highway is a fly by zone, with the exception being drivers stopping to fuel up in Dove Creek. Relatively few people notice the signage for the Dolores Canyon Overlook and even less are willing to drive the long dirt roads to this place. What this all adds up to is an opportunity to find peaceful solitude in a vast wilderness area which offers majestic views that extend deep into the horizon.
The dirt roads to the overlook are fairly smooth, so a higher than average ground clearance passenger car can do the trip. The first section goes through agricultural areas that border upon the pine forest wilderness, so plenty of wildlife can be spotted along the way. Where the dirt road turns into the BLM territory, several dispersed primitive campsites can be found that offer plenty of peace and quiet. From this point, the dirt road parallels Dolores Canyon to the end point and the pine forest gets deeper as one goes. At the end of the line is a cozy BLM day use area with ample parking, picnic tables, chargrills and basic facilities.
There is a hiking trail in the picnic area that goes to the end of a branching mesa arm that overlooks a picturesque section of Dolores Canyon. The Dolores River can be seen way down below and the red rock section of this deep canyon comes into full view. The foot trail goes over rough bedrock that may be challenging for some and care must be taken to avoid minor injuries. Tripping over the small crags is easy to do, so it is best not to carry an expensive camera in hand. The Dolores Canyon Overlook certainly offers a one of a kind viewing experience, so be sure to chalk up this lesser known destination when passing by on Highway 491!
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