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Vallecito Creek Trail to Johnson Creek Trail to Columbine Lake

Basics
Location:
Northeast of Durango
Setting:
Mountainous
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Trailhead Elevation:
8000 feet
Elevation Change:
4000 feet
Season:
Summer - Fall

Description

Trail #'s 529 & 504

The Vallecito Creek Trail begins in the Vallecito Campground. The hike begins in a steep canyon with ponderosa pine forest, aspens, and conifers. After .6 miles you enter the Weminuche Wilderness. The trail climbs gradually as you follow Vallecito Creek north. You will cross Taylor Creek, Vallecito creek, and Second Creek as you continue on through meadows and aspen groves. After 9.2 miles, you'll come to the junction with the Johnson Creek Trail. Turn left (west) and continue on 100 yards to a bridge. After crossing, you will hike on easy to moderate terrain to Columbine Lake (12,000' elevation) at mile 18. You can extend the hike an additional .4 miles by continuing up the steep switchbacks to Columbine Pass, at elevation 12,680 feet.

The alpine meadows are full of blooming wildflowers in late July and in August. This area offers 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 the year. Plan accordingly.

Fishing Considerations:

Wild rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout are found in Vallecito Creek. The fish are appropriate for the size of the stream, generally 8-to-12-inch range. Deeper water may have trout of 16 inches, but they are not found often. The river offers some of the finest fly-fishing found anywhere. The entire Vallecito Creek drainage within the Weminuche Wilderness is managed as fly-and-lure-only water, with a bag and possession limit of 2. Columbine Lake is rated fair for cutthroat and brook. Please check the fishing regulations regarding limits, allowable lures, and restrictions on certain lakes, rivers, etc.

Details

Location:
Northeast of Durango
Setting:
Mountainous
Difficulty:
Intermediate
Trailhead Elevation:
8000
Elevation Change:
4000
Season:
Summer - Fall
Useful Map(s):
USGS Quads: Vallecito Reservoir, Columbine Pass

Map + Directions

Basic Directions

From Bayfield, head north on County Road (CR) #501, also called the Vallecito Road, for 13 miles until you reach Vallecito Reservoir and continue north on the west side of the reservoir for an additional 11 miles to the Vallecito Campground, where the trailhead is located.

2) From Durango, head north on Florida Road (CR #240) for 14 miles until you reach CR #501 and continue north on #501 to Vallecito Reservoir. Continue on the west side of the reservoir for an additional 11 miles to the Vallecito Campground, where the trailhead is located.


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