Vast expanses of public lands and wilderness areas surrounding Montrose, combined with a remarkably diverse landscapes spanning elevations from 5,000 feet to over 14,000, create countless opportunities for viewing wildlife.
A "safari", western Colorado style, presents plenty of options nature lovers and camera buffs hoping to spot bald eagles, elk, moose, antelope, mountain lions, deer, kit fox, or even a bear. An don't forget to look for tiny critters like the colorful collared lizard.
Wildlife Viewing Areas
The Uncompahgre Plateau, located west of Montrose, is a prime destination for viewing elk and deer. Remote roads offer easy access to these public lands, while acres of secluded canyons, draws, and pockets await those looking venture out with a backpack and a sturdy pair of hiking boots.
Areas to the south and east of Montrose in the San Juans and Cimarrons offer more challenging mountain terrain. High ascents, heavily forested swaths of land, and sometimes unpredictable weather can present some obstacles, but the unforgettable views, flora, and fauna warrant the extra effort.
Ridgway State Park, located south of Montrose, is a superb habitat for viewing elk or avian creatures from bald eagles to blue herons.
The Colorado Birding Trail, comprised of both public and private lands, is home to more than 450 bird species. There are 14 sites along the western Colorado portion of the trail, including the Uncompahgre Plateau. Other birding hotspots include Billy Creek State Wildlife Area south of Montrose.
Planning Your Trip
Before venturing out on your wildlife-viewing trek, please heed a few helpful hints:
Before beginning your tour, fill your gas tank, plan your lunch, and check weather and road conditions along your route. Several trips include stretches where no services are available.
Prepare for a variety of weather conditions. Water supplies, sunscreen, and lip balm are essential equipment. Summer showers and high-country winds can come up unexpectedly, so take along a jacket, extra clothes, and rain gear.
High-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for traveling unimproved roads. Avoid these roads during or immediately following heavy rain or snow.
Cell phone service can be lost in remote areas, so be sure to inform someone of your planned route and expected return time.