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The Best and Most Beautiful Hiking Adventures in Durango, Colorado

By June 10, 2020Activities, durango, Hiking
Durango High Country Hike

Photo by Mike Pulk

Durango, Colorado boasts a wide range of world-class hiking trails. Within a 30 minutes’ drive from downtown, you can access over 300 miles of scenic trails. Whether you’re looking for short family hikes, long day hikes, or multiple-day hikes through the San Juan Mountains, Durango makes a great base for hiking adventures in Colorado.

With so many trails, you can’t possibly hike all of them during your vacation, so you should prioritize the ones you’ll enjoy the most. Some trails are found within the town limits, others explore the mid-country or high country, and there are trails around other nearby towns that you may consider exploring.

Durango HIkesImage by kincosmeticsdurango from Pixabay

Within town

Some of the best views in Durango can be found along the 6-mile Animas Mountain Loop Trail. From the trail, you can admire the Hermosa Cliffs to the north, the La Plata Mountains to the west, and the Animas River Valley.

The trails are rocky, sometimes sandy, and steep but worth the difficult climb for the views and the wildlife you can see along the way. There is limited shade along this trail, so sunhats and sunscreen are essential in summer. Remember to stay hydrated.

Many of the trails most popular with locals are found inside Overend Mountain Park. This 300-acre area of hilly scrub oak and pine forest is accessible year-round. The crushed shale tracks are especially popular with mountain bikers but are also used for hiking, snowshoeing, and fat biking.

The higher trails, such as Hidden Valley, Grabens Loop, and Hogsback provide spectacular views of Durango. Hogsback is the most challenging trail but also offers the best views. To enjoy a longer, 7-mile roundtrip day hike, head for the Perins Peak Trail. You can access this trail via Hogsback or the trailhead at the intersection of Rockridge Drive and Tanglewood Drive. This trail immerses you in nature and leads to an overhang that is a famous local landmark.

Less ambitious hikers may prefer the family-friendly trails of the Church Camp Trail System near Chapman Lake which are relatively flat. The trails pass through grassy meadows and provide views of the Hermosa Cliffs. The 1.4-mile Church Camp Loop takes you from the main Church Camp/Falls Creek parking area across the meadow, up a hill, down past a picturesque waterfall, and back to the trailhead.

Mid-country

La Plata Canyon 18 miles west of Durango on the way to Cortez is a popular hiking area. Several trails in the La Plata Canyon Trail System provide access to an alpine lake and meadows of alpine flowers, orchids, and columbine.

Some of the trails also feature remnants of old mining operations, such as an old cabin and an abandoned mine. Go early in the morning to make the most of the beautiful scenery as the area is known for its afternoon thunderstorms. Ensure you wear appropriate clothes for rain and waterproof boots.

The 12.7-mile Hermosa Creek Trail in the mid-country is a great way to access the high country. There are 2 main trailheads. The southern trailhead is just north of Lower Hermosa Campground, which is found 14½ miles north of Durango. The northern trailhead is just off Hermosa Park Road 578 (Hermosa Road 577) west of Purgatory, 35 miles north of Durango.

 

There are 105 miles of trails in the Hermosa Area Trail System. The 12.7-mile out-and-back Hermosa Creek Trail roughly follows the course of the Hermosa Creek and connects to a wide variety of high-country trails to help you explore this beautiful area, such as the trail from upper Hermosa to Bolam Pass and the trail from Jones Creek to Pinkerton.

High-country

Backpackers seeking multiple-day hiking adventures can access many fantastic high-country trails from Durango. Purgatory Ski Resort 27 miles north of Durango is the starting point for many of these epic journeys.

When you’re planning a hiking adventure through such remote areas, ensure you plan carefully and pack everything you need, including a flashlight, adequate clothing for high altitude weather fluctuations, food, a portable stove, and a sturdy tent.

If you’re looking for a short trek into the high-country, the 1.5-mile Purgatory Flow Trail descends 1,090 feet from the trailhead and provides spectacular mountain and forest views.

Arguably the most beautiful hiking adventure in the nation, the Colorado Trail (CT) runs 567 miles between Durango and Denver. The CT crosses the Rocky Mountains at high altitudes and passes through diverse ecosystems, past alpine lakes, and past scenic peaks.

While you may not have the time to complete the whole of this epic trail, you may choose to explore some of the high-country portion of the CT near Durango. You can locate the CT’s southern trailhead just 3 miles north of Durango’s town limits.

Surrounding areas

There are also many fantastic hiking trails around neighboring towns, such as the 12.4-mile out-and-back Sand Canyon Trail that provides access to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. This amazing archaeological site features the greatest concentration of pre-Columbian pueblo structures in the US. You’ll find the trailhead 10 miles west of Cortez, only 46 miles from Durango.

There are many offshoot trails leading to points of interest, usually spectacular ruined structures. The wildflowers during spring and summer are spectacular, and you’re likely to spot lizards and birds along the route. The shade is very limited, so you’ll definitely need your sunhat and sunscreen on sunny days.

If you particularly enjoy hiking around lakes, check out the Vallecito Lake Trail System 18 miles northeast of Durango. The lake is 8,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by a beautiful mountain valley.

About Lori Moss