Destination: Transfer Horse Camp, located approximately nine miles north of the town of Mancos on Forest Rd. 561. This is a graveled road in fairly good condition. Look for signs for Transfer Campground. The horse camp is across the road on the left.
Overview: Transfer Horse Camp offers large, roomy corrals, water, camping spaces, and multiple riding trails straight from camp. There are three spacious wooden corrals, but note that this is a primitive campground, with no electricity or potable water. Water for horses is available from a nearby creek; potable water is available from a pump across the road in the regular campground.
Chicken Creek Trail: The Chicken Creek Trail (No. 615) begins a little north of camp, merging with the Morrison Trail for the first half mile. You’ll come to a well-marked junction. Turn left, and head south for the Chicken Creek Trail, or turn right for the Morrison Trail.
Chicken Creek Trail is an extremely pleasant, fun trail to ride. There are curves, twists, and occasional easy stream crossings. A soft dirt trail with few rocks works its way up onto a ridge. There, you can see the Mesa Verde Plateau to the southwest and the La Plata Mountains to the east. Eight miles up you’ll find Jackson Gulch Reservoir at Mancos State Park, a perfect spot for a picnic and a relaxing stretch.
Morrison Trail: Start out as though you’re heading to the Chicken Creek Trail, but at the junction, turn right, and head north on the Morrison Trail. About seven miles later, the trail climbs to Haycamp Mesa (elevation 9,785 feet). Here, the trail continues down into Lost Canyon.
After Lost Canyon, the trail descends into the Dolores River valley and merges with the Bear Creek Trail, eventually terminating at the Morrison trailhead at Wallace Ranch. The one-way riding distance is about 9 to 10 miles and is rated as moderately difficult.
Aspen Loop Trail: To reach the Aspen Loop trailhead, ride a half-mile mile due east on the road that passes by the main “non-horse” campground. The road ends at a large turnaround and gated trail. This is the Aspen Loop trailhead. After three miles or so, you can turn right on a small, two-track trail that branches from the main road and follow a ridge overlooking the Mancos River Valley; views of Mount Hesperus loom in the distance.
West Mancos Trail: This trail is noted for meandering through some of the world’s largest aspen trees. Fall is the premier time to see these giant aspen. The West Mancos Trail begins its descent into the West River Mancos Valley. Within three-quarters of a mile, it divides; to the right (west) is the Box Canyon Trail and to the left (east) is the West Mancos Trail. The West Mancos Trail descends steeply in a series of switchbacks until it reaches the valley floor. A couple of the switchbacks were a little tricky, and the valley floor trail was very overgrown with brush.
Seasoned trail riders and equine photojournalists Kent and Charlene Krone enjoy sharing their riding adventures in the United States and Canada.