One of the most beautiful spots you will ever find in your travels through the Western United States can be reached by an hour and twenty minute drive from Ridgway Colorado. This is the famous Cimarron Range with its jagged ridgeline and its notable peaks of Courthouse Mountain and Chimney Rock. From the town of Ridgway or while driving by on Route 550 you can look to the east and see the breathtaking skyline of the Cimarrons with its rugged comblike protrusions. Seeing it is unmistakable.
From that distance it is an amazing site to behold but you really cannot have the slightest idea what a treat you are in for when you drive the road marked County Road 10 up to the range. Your first thought might simply be that you will be able to get up close to those remarkable peaks and spires for a closer look. What you probably don’t realize however is that as you drive up and up you will soon reach Owl River Pass at just over 10,000′ and then descend a distance into the valley on the opposite side of the ridge. As you do so you will enter a wonderland of forests, meadows, rivers, streams, lakes, campgrounds, wildflower fields during the spring and summer and astounding color landscapes during the autumn change of seasons. You might feel as though you have passed into the world of the mythical ‘Shangri-la’.
The Cimarron Range is considered to be a subrange of the San Juan Mountains. Its spires are ancient and of composite volcanic origin and the fingerlike extensions have taken eons to acquire their current form. Formations like Courthouse Mountain can be climbed along mountain trails by those in fit condition but others such as Chimney Rock have sheer faces that make them all but unscalable except for by expert mountaineers. In fact it was not until 1934 that this peak at a height of about 11,800′ was finally climbed.
If you are planning to visit the magnificent Cimarron Mountain area you should do so roughly between the months of June through September after the cold weather and snowfields have diminished. Another weather point to be aware of are the rain downpours that can occur in the summer months often making the dirt roadways to Owl Pass somewhat muddy and more difficult to navigate. The best time of day to make the journey is in the mornings as the showers, and often thunder showers, will generally occur in the afternoon.