Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Last Hike from Durango: Vallecito Creek

Vallecito Creek runs almost entirely in the Weminuche Wilderness, for about 20 miles, and empties into the Vallecito Reservoir. The creek is popular with fishermen and, for expert kayakers, boasts a Class V run called "the best mile of boating in Colorado".  The Vallecito Creek Trail is a major access point for the Weminuche Wilderness, whose 475 miles of trails is popular with backpackers.

The tan area is the Weminuche Wilderness.
Our hike was straight up from Vallecito Reservoir near the bottom left.

The trail is accessed through the Vallecito Campground, a forest service campground, located just a few miles North of Vallecitos Reservoir. We were fortunate to hike the trail on a weekday, I am certain it is a popular destination on the weekends. We hiked the first three miles, turning around at the first bridge, after a cooling foot soak in the creek.

Soon after starting the hike, the trail heads several hundred feet above the creek in order to navigate the rock walls of the gorge. The walls of the gorge are a mixture of sharp, craggy rock and smooth, rounded rock that made me wonder if they were worn down by glaciers many eons ago.

During the next mile or so we were teased by the sound of the creek roaring through the gorge below, but only rare peek-a-boo glimpses of water were possible over the steep cliff.

Rounded stone walls made us think a glacier must have carved its way through here.

This smoothly rubbed section of the trail was at least 50 feet above the creek.
Glacier scrubbed or water eroded when the water level was much higher???

Finally we caught a view of the mighty creek below, with tall mountains looming in the distance:

The trail dropped down to creek level and over the next couple of miles we made forays to the waters edge to enjoy the beauty and power of the water.

Now that I know what the Colorado state flower looks like (thanks Mark!) and that there are many variations, I was excited to find a gorgeous lavender version of the Columbine all along the trail:

This was a nice hike, not too strenuous, along a very lovely creek, with a good mix of sun and shade. In a few weeks there should be masses of flowers and berries.

Driving back to Durango we continued around Vallecito Reservoir and found that the road turns to gravel and has one fairly rough section, but you can drive all the way around, including over the dam. There are a number of forest service and private campgrounds all the way around the lake.

Tomorrow we head for Ouray, driving the Million Dollar Highway. Hans is confident about the drive despite the mixed reviews we've got about taking a big rig on it...fortunately it's supposed to be better (safer) driving North than South!


  1. Looking forward to a transit review from tomorrow. I have not heard of that highway.

  2. Glad to see no fires in your pictures. Im not sure which part of Colorado you are in and where the fire is. I sure hope you are miles away from the disaster. Keep safe and keep those beautiful pictures going.

  3. You found some cool rocks!! You have really set up a great trip for our return to CO...thanks! You two had a fabulous two weeks. Enjoy your drive to Ouray. Have fun hiking in a new area. Can't wait to see what's up next!

  4.'re doing the Million Dollar Highway. You guys are braver than we are. I saw the back wheels of an 18-wheeler come off the road as we drove north on that road 2 years ago. Enjoy Ouray. It's an awesome spot!!


  5. Let's have a meet up once you are situated in Ouray...over a beer, of course. If you are wandering Main Street, stop by the Skol Gallery; I'll be there 11 to 5, thurs. thru sun.. Red Mountain Pass's bark is worse than it's bite :))
    Box Canyon Mark from Lovely Ouray, Colorado!

    1. We will indeed stop by! Looking forward to the beauty that is Ouray!

  6. I would like to hear your impressions of driving to Ouray!
    Be careful and have fun.
    It's nice to see that Hans adapted my goatee look!

  7. Bill, We made it to Ouray with no problems. The truck pulled pretty good, I put it in tow/haul mode and used the exhaust brake. The drive was easier than I thought. I did have some luck though... there was some road construction and on the downhill to Silverton, there was no oncoming traffic for about 3 miles, so I got to hog the road a little. I did notice that my Chevy HD 3500 brakes had a slight smell, even though I used the exhaust brake and was running about 2500-2800 rpm downhill, but the trailer brakes had no smell. So all is well. We are all setup in our back in site, with our fifth wheel rear end just about hanging over the Uncompagahre river.

  8. Glad to hear it! When I tow I always use tow haul and the exhaust brake is on. Tow haul helps with the transmission and brake use.
    Great town! Enjoy!


  9. We,too have a Montana, and a new 2013 3500 Chevy. We look forward to hear how your trip north on the Million Dollar Highway goes.

    1. John and Carol, The trip from Durango to Ouray was easier than I thought. There was some construction, but that actually helped, as we got to take a breather during the trip... ie... run back to the rv to pee ;-) and stretch our legs! Also, because the construction was using flag men/woman we had a 3 or 4 mile downhill portion into Silverton, where we had the whole road.. ie no on-coming traffic, which was nice.