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Pine River Trail to Emerald Lake to Moon Lake

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Basics
Location:
Northeast of Durango
Setting:
Mountainous
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Trailhead Elevation:
8000 feet
Elevation Change:
2600 feet
Season:
Summer - Fall

Description

Trail #'s 523 & 528

The Pine River Trail begins through a private gate next to Granite Peaks Ranch. Please stay on the trail, and camping is prohibited until you reach the Wilderness boundary. Aspens, ponderosa pines, and conifers are in abundance along the trail as you follow the Pine (or Piños) River east.

The boundary of the Weminuche Wilderness is 2.7 miles up the trail. At mile 6.3 the Lake Fork Trail turns off to the north. A moderate climb, interspersed with flat meadows, takes you to the Emerald Lakes at 10 miles. Within ¼ mile south of the lakes to ½ mile north of the lakes, camping, campfires, and grazing or tethering stock are not allowed, except in designated sites. There are only 8 sites.

Past Emerald Lake, there are creek crossings, and if it’s been a wet year you will have a muddy trail as you climb up the Lake Creek drainage. The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and in August. Enjoy the excellent views and photographic possibilities. Water can be found off the trail in most of the tributaries, but, due to Giardia, it should be filtered. As with all high-altitude areas, storms can move in rapidly, bringing severe wind, lightning, rain, snow, or hail —at any time of year. Plan accordingly.

Fishing Considerations:

The Pine River is not accessible for the first 2.5 miles of trail, but fishing for trout above the Wilderness boundary is excellent. The Pine River is restricted to artificial flies and lures only. Please check the fishing regulations regarding limits, allowable lures, and restrictions on certain lakes, rivers, etc.

Books

Details over 20 of the best day hikes amid the spectacular scenery and wildlife of Colorado’s famous Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is absolutely the best map available for hiking Rocky Mountain National Park. It lays out the whole park three-dimensionally and shows more than 100 trails. You’ll easily be able to see how to reach the trailhead and where the trail runs.

Location:
Northeast of Durango
Setting:
Mountainous
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Trailhead Elevation:
8000
Elevation Change:
2600
Season:
Summer - Fall
Useful Map(s):
USGS Quads: Granite Peak, Emerald Lake
Basic Directions

1)From Bayfield, head north on County Road (CR) #501, also called the Vallecito Road. Take that road north 22 miles around Vallecito Lake.Turn left on the Pine River turnoff – FS #602. Take the road 3.8 miles to the Pine River Campground.

)2 From Durango, head north on Florida Road (CR #240) for 14 miles. Continue on CR #240 for 2 miles past the turnoff for Lemon Reservoir. Turn north onto CR #501. Take that road north 12 miles around Vallecito Lake. Turn left on the Pine River turnoff – FS #602. Take the road 3.8 miles to the Pine River Campground.

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