Based in Durango, Colorado, Trails 2000 is a
501c3 organization that builds and maintains trails; educates trail users and encourages
connectivity on road, path and trail.
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Vallecito Lake Hiking Trails (Weminuche Wilderness); photo courtesy of the Vallecito Chamber of Commerce.
Vallecito Creek Trail: Easy to Moderate.
A stunning day hike, or a great four-to-five day backpack trip. The trail begins in the Vallecito campground; from the west side of Vallecito, on CR 501, pass through the community of Vallecito, and turn north on CR 500 and drive about three miles to the campground/parking area. The trail follows the rapid flowing Vallecito Creek which tumbles down a narrow glacial valley; the creek is among the loveliest in the West. In the first two miles, you will rise more than 500 ft. above the creek with fantastic vistas, then the trail drops down right beside the creek. There are many side trails that lead to beautiful pools, great for fishing or relaxing. The first foot bridge, at three miles, is a great day hike. The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and August. In the spring, the creek is a committed Class V+ whitewater run for experts only. In the winter, the trail becomes a popular snowshoeing trail.
Lake Eileen Trail: Difficult. The four mile round trip hike gains 1,140 feet in elevation and takes approximately four hours. To access the trail, take CR 501 north of the lake and look for the Forest Service Work Center; a trailhead sign is visible from the road. Park on the east side of the road, the trailhead is on the west (opposite) side. The trail passes through aspen forests to the small, shallow lake covered by water lilies and surrounded by aspen trees. A short climb to the ridge gives you great views of the lake and forests.
The Lake Trails: Easy. Most portions of this trail skirt the edge of Vallecito Lake. Look for WalkPath signs as you drive around the Lake to access. There are benches and picnic tables along the way and plenty of fine fishing spots. There is a “Flowers from the Lake trails” brochure available at many businesses to help you identify the wildflowers.
North Canyon, East Creek & Graham Creek Trails: Moderate. These trails head up the ridges on the east side of Vallecito Lake, following creeks with waterfalls to open meadows.
Pine River Trail: Easy to Moderate . The Pine River alternates between meadows and canyon, frequently flowing peacefully on the flat valley floor. The boundary of the Weminuche Wilderness is 2.7 miles up the trail, with fantastic fishing, and the turnoff to Emerald Lake is at mile 6.3 (Trail #528). The trail continues to ascend, sometimes gradually and sometimes moderately.
Cave Basin Trail: Most Difficult; map skills suggested. Drive up Middle Mountain Road (USFS Road # 724 gravel) to the turn off at the ten mile marker. Cave Basin Trail begins at an elevation of 10,800 ft. If you go all the way you’ll end at an elevation of 12,360 ft. (the Overlook of Emerald Lake). Ten miles round trip, but any portion of is great way to experience some high elevation hiking. The trail starts off wide and well defined but disappears after about three miles due to the gray limestone that forms benches. Use your map and compass skills to progress across the gray limestone benches, past meadows and sinkholes. The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and August. This area offers excellent views and photographic possibilities. As with all high-altitude areas, storms can move in rapidly bringing severe wind, lightning, rain, snow, or hail any time of the year. Plan accordingly.
Tuckerville Trail: Easy . Follow directions to Cave Basin Trail and continue to the end of road (11 miles) to an open area which was the mining town of Tuckerville. All the buildings have been removed, including six bunkhouses, shop, and a mess hall, in full operation from 1920 to 1929. There are many trails leaving from there, some starting as ATV trails. If you bear left you will reach a wonderful overlook where there were mines in the cliffs below.
Vallecito Lake is located 18 NE miles of Durango. From Durango, take Florida Road (CR 240) out of town (approximately 16 miles). At the T intersection, take a left on CR 501 which will bring you to the lake. For directions to various trails and trailheads, view the Vallecito Lake Trails Map.
Visit the Trail Conditions Report for current conditions and photos.
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