Near Ridgway, CO
I call this shot Enchanted Forest – as the spot seemed surreal in the way the Aspen trees invite you into their grove. The morning I took this image - the weather started out perfect, but quickly turned as a fall storm moved in. For just a few moments a thick fog bank rolled in which gave the place a dreamlike appearance. I quickly set up my camera next to my Jeep and was able to take a couple of images before the sky opened up.
This location is found in a large Aspen forest in southwest Colorado on a dirt road connecting Ridgway and the Owl Creek Pass. The spot is just a half mile from of Kate’s Meadow (which was the final shootout scene between Robert Duvall and John Wayne in the original True Grit movie). If you like photographing Aspen trees this road offers tons and tons of opportunities.
Trail Difficulty (2 out of 5)
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 2 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The location is just off the road, but the dirt road getting there is bumpy with a few rocks and holes along the way.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
click for a Google map of the location
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to the Enchanted Forest parking area.
The following directions are from Ridgway, CO (which is a small town in Southwest Colorado).
From Ridgway, travel north on US 550 for 1.7 miles until you get to CO RD 10 (a gravel road leading to Owl Creek Pass). Mark your odometer at this point (the total distance from the turnoff from US550 to the location is 13.5 miles).
On US550 from Ridgway, turn right on CO RD10 for 4.0 miles until you get to the fork for CO RD8 – and turn right on CO RD 8 for 9.1 miles and you will see a sign for Stealey Mtn. TRAILHEAD.
From the Stealey Mtn. TRAILHEAD continue on the dirt road (CO CR8) for .3 miles and you will see a small pull-off on the right side.
The last 3 to 4 miles are driving through a thick Aspen grove, so keep your eyes out for many other photographic opportunities.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
Because this shot is almost due south – the different time of the year determines when it is best to shoot. In fall, I have found the best time to shoot is mid to late morning
Best Time of Year to Shoot
This location is very nice during the spring and summer. However, for me the best time of year is during the fall color season (depending on the year – this ranges between mid Sept to the first week in October). The VERY BEST time to capture this spot would be when the aspens are turning golden but before the red ferns turn brown and die for the winter.
The above shot was taken on September 26th
What Lens(es) Do You Need
The above shot was taken with a 50mm lens - which allowed for some compression, but still with a sense of depth. You can use lenses that range from 24-100mm.
There are no permits required in the area.
Direction of the Shot
The shot from the road is due south @ 160°
Special Nuances of Shot
I wish I could tell you that you simply drive up to this location and get the same shot as above but, that is not the case. This shot is all about the weather (both the seasonal and current).
First - this condition of this little Aspen grove is dependent on the amount of rain the area gets in the summer/fall months. Some years its perfect, some years it is totally dead. Second - as you can see from the image above, this was taken in a light rain with fog. Without these conditions, this shot is not near as dramatic.
From a photography standpoint, it is a pretty straightforward shot. However, there are different compositions based on where you stand along the road.
Special Equipment Needed
Other than a tripod, there is no need for any special photography equipment.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
This spot is off of the beaten path for most photographers and it would be unlikely to see anyone else at this location.
The weather in Colorado is normally mild in the summer and cold (lows in the 20’s) in the spring and fall. Having never been to this location in the winter, I am not sure the road is open or maintained that time of year.
I use Verizon and cell service at this location is spotty. Better cell service is found as you drive down the mountain toward Ridgway.
As far as I know, there are 2 hotels in Ridgway (they usually fill-up quickly in the fall, so make sure you plan ahead). Also, Ridgway State Park is approx. 4 miles north of Ridgway, and there are also several other hotels and lodging in Ouray, CO (approx. 10 miles south of Ridgway).
Ridgway State Park is a VERY NICE state park with lots of campsites ($20 for tent only and $30 for full hook ups) and includes pay showers, laundry, vending machines, and flush restrooms.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Ridgway State Park (4 miles north of Ridgway)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Chipeta Solar Springs Resort & Spa
304 S Lena St, Ridgway, CO
Ridgway-Ouray Lodge & Suites
373 Palomino Trail, Ridgway, CO
Kate's Place has a GREAT breakfast/brunch and I always try to stop there after my morning shoot. True Grit Café has a nice selection of cold adult beverages and a good menu. Ridgway was the location of the original True Grit movie with John Wayne and the True Grit Café was part of the opening scene.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
615 W Clinton, Ridgway, CO
True Grit Café
123 N Lena Street, Ridgway, CO
Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery
602 Clinton St, Ridgway, CO
The Last Dollar Laundromat is located at 357 Sherman St. in Ridgway. There is also a laundry mat at the Ridgway State Park.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest airport is in Montrose, CO (MTJ). It is a nice regional airport that services: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops