By Dawn A. Engler
Photographs by Dawn A. Engler and Amy Baird
Ridgway is a terrific place to spend a day in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and one doesn’t have to be an expert climber to do so. Surrounded by the Cimarron and Sneffels mountain ranges, the views will awe as much as the clean, fresh air, but there is so much more to do here than climb mountains!
“Think Outside” is Ridgway’s motto, but maybe there is no agenda to conquer the “fourteeners” in this area. Maybe the perfect day outside includes the more level, gentle paths along rivers, lazy days in the park, good food and conversation with the locals. If this seems right, then don’t let those mountains scare you away.
Here are my top five things on a day’s agenda in Ridgway, Colorado.
Start the day by 7 a.m., to miss the inevitable line at Kate’s Place. The breakfast and lunch menu will satisfy any taste buds, and no one leaves here hungry. The Biscuits and Gravy and the Rocky Mountain High Omelet are top menu choices. Follow the wonderful smells to 615 West Clinton Street, 970-626-9800, katesplaceridgway.com
After filling up at Kate’s Place, there will be lots of energy for the River Walk to Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. One hundred thirty acres of open space surround this 60-acre public park that meanders along the Uncompahgre River. The level paved path from Hartwell Park in town heads to the medicine wheel where the 20-foot wingspan of the cast bronze eagle awaits. A round trip back to the park will net a three-mile, gentle hike, so eating that extra slice of pizza later won’t feel so bad. dennisweaverpark.com
Time for a pick-me-up? Cimarron Books & Coffee is a great hub for well-crafted coffee and conversation. There is an excellent selection of books, journals, tees, and local Colorado goodies. Hartwell Park across the street is also a beautiful place to enjoy that cup of coffee. A playground will keep the kiddos happy while adults breathe in the clean mountain air and gaze at the surrounding mountain ranges. 380 West Sherman, 970-626-5858
The five-minute drive north to Ridgway State Park is next on the agenda. Three distinctive site areas wrapped around the reservoir offer camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, boating, fishing, and swimming. Fourteen miles of trails with varying levels of difficulty bring one close to the natural resources and wildlife that are abundant here. The views of the Sneffels mountain range from the platform at the Visitor’s Center are incredible. Be sure to visit the picnic area in Dallas Creek to get a glimpse of the bald eagles and their young ones “screeing” along the canyon walls. 28555 Hwy. 550, 970-626-5822, http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/Parks/ridgway
Following an afternoon on the trails at Ridgway State Park, pizza and a brew should be next on the list.
Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery is a cool place to tap into the local buzz. Taste the current selection of “on cask” beer, and the waiter may suggest the favorite local meal of a Spring Creek Salad followed by the Mediterranean Pizza. 602 Clinton Street, 970-626-5333, http://coloradoboy.com/ridgway
For evening entertainment, look up the Ridgway Concert Series in the park, or the Sherbino Theater schedule. If you have more than just a day here in the vacation plans, the Visitor’s Center offers a good deal of information about the area. In 2013, Ridgway received Creative District Certification from the state of Colorado, so leave time for the shops, galleries, and studios, too. Of course, it is also fun just to plan another lazy day in Hartwell Park gazing at the glorious mountains surrounding Ridgway. For more information: http://ridgwaycolorado.com/
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