Lone Mesa State Park, located 23 miles north of Dolores in southwest Colorado, is a pristine 11,760-acre parkland topped by flat-topped 9,215-foot Lone Mesa. The state parks department calls the area a “crown jewel” with its size and ecological diversity. Atop the mesa are mature aspens over 24 inches in diameter and ponderosa pines over 400 years old, while lower slopes below a cliff band have aspen groves and dense scrub oak thickets. The remote park, purchased in 1999, is currently closed to public use, except for elk, deer, and black bear hunting by Special Use Permits in season. The park will eventually open when funding becomes available to provide basic roads, recreation, and visitor services.
- The park is closed to general public use and access while it is being developed. Hunters, however, can apply for a Special Use Permit during big game seasons to hunt deer, elk, and black bear. These 15 or so permits are obtained by lottery, with an additional fee between $100 and $300. About 122 game permits are also issued from a pool of about 400 applicants every year.
- When camping is finally allowed at Lone Mesa State Park, expect starry skies in this light-pollution-free zone. All of the towns close to the park are small with few outdoor lights.
- While a park master plan is not yet complete, some details about recreation and public use have emerged. All recreation will be non-motorized and there will probably be minimal facilities. Colorado State Parks are not funded by taxes or the state budget, but are instead dependent on visitor fees as well as money from state lottery funds and the Land Water Conservation Fund. The funding sources force state parks to run as businesses rather than parks.
Recommended season(s): Year round.
—Stewart M. Green