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Cottonwood Creek

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Basics
Location:
In the northern San Juan Mountains, about 12 miles west of Lake City
Surface:
Dirt and rock
Vehicle Type:
ATV,
4wd Vehicle
Length:
12 miles
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Time:
1 to 2 hours
Season:
June to October

Description

The Cottonwood Creek Road doesn't get much vehicle traffic because it is so rough. Still, its gentle grade and spectacular scenery make it a good choice for those with vehicles up to the task. The trail first passes through aspen and spruce stands with frequent views of the surrounding cliffs. After a rain, waterfalls can be seen here. Beyond Boulder Gulch, the valley opens to large willow flats dotted with beaver ponds. About 3/4 mile up the trail from Boulder Gulch is the road to the Cuba Gulch Trailhead. Continuing on the main road for another 3/4 mile leads to the beginning of a steep set of switchbacks. The easy part of the trail ends here. Vehicles are prohibited from driving any further.

If you keep your eye on the cliffs to the north, you might be lucky enough to see the small herd of bighorn sheep that lives there. While the trail stops at the first switchback, hikers with energy to spare may wish to continue up into the upper Snare Creek basin to reach several tundra ponds at the top.

Location:
In the northern San Juan Mountains, about 12 miles west of Lake City
Surface:
Dirt and rock
Setting:
High mountain terrain
Vehicle Type:
ATV
4wd Vehicle
Length:
12 miles
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Time:
1 to 2 hours
Season:
June to October
Camping Info
Camping is permitted at the Cataract Gulch Trailhead and at several pullouts along the road to the west.
Basic Directions
From Lake City, take Highway 149 south 2.5 miles. Turn right on the road to Lake San Cristobal. Follow the paved road about 4 miles, then continue on the dirt road for about 8.3 miles. Turn left at the fork and travel 1.4 miles. The trailhead sign reads "Cataract Gulch Trail." Cottonwood Creek Trail is to the right, a continuation of the road.

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