One of the best day hikes in the area is climbing Centennial Peak in the La Plata Mountains.
The route begins at the Sharkstooth Trailhead after 18 miles of dirt roads. High clearance vehicles are definitely recommended, but compact cars often make it to near the trailhead.
The Sharkstooth Trail climbs for 2.5 miles to a grassy pass between Sharkstooth Peak to the north and Centennial Peak to the south. To bag Centennial, head south from the pass up to a bench.
From here the peak looms in front of you, but it is a relatively casual ascent, with some scree fields to negotiate and a more burly rock band to climb through. Climber trails guide hikers safely through the tough spots. For the more adventurous, follow closer to the ridge for some nice exposure on solid rock.
The rock band is steep, but a rough, switchback trail gets hikers through in no time, and then it’s on to the nearby summit. At 13,062 feet, the rolling-ridge summit is a great perch. Hesperus Peak with its interesting geologic layers rises above, and in between is a jagged ridge full of rocky spires and interesting formations.
The Mancos River basin flows out to the west, and to the southeast the secret peaks of the La Plata range reveal themselves.
There is a lot of mining history is this region. Interpretive signs explain mining sites along the way and there is a short loop hike to the Windy Williams Mine. Silver and gold mining has occurred in the La Platas since 1912. A modern company explored and rehabilitated the upper end of the Williams Mine in 1988. Newmont Exploration brought in drilling equipment but discovered mining and processing the ore was not economically feasible, and they returned the land to its original condition.
The Sharkstooth Trailhead takes a little driving, but it is well worth it, and the drive is pleasant.
From Mancos, drive north half a mile to Road 42. Pass the entrance to Jackson Lake and onto the forest boundary and Forest Road 561. From here it is 15 miles to the trailhead.
Take FS Road 561 about two miles past Transfer Campground and get on FS Road 350. From there it is 6 miles to Road 346, which drops sharply to the right. Here the road gets rough, but it is just a mile from the trailhead, so it is a good place to park and start the hike for those with cars.
For higher clearance vehicles, continue down Road 346 past Twin Lakes to the well-marked Sharkstooth Trailhead.
This is also a good stepping-off point to climb Hesperus Peak to the south. Allow four to six hours (round trip) to summit Centennial Peak.