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Thread: San Juan National Forest

  1. #1
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    San Juan National Forest

    I have a friend going to San Juan National Forest for several days in SEP (in the Silverton/Durango area I guess) and she was looking for recommendations on day hikes, places to see (non hiking stuff), etc. If anyone has any info they can share on the area, hike recommendations, "local knowledge", etc it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 5/46

  2. #2
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    Spent a week with the family there. It must have been 2000, because the big Mesa Verde fire was still being contained.
    Some obvious things:
    The round-trip train from Durango to Silverton is worth it. Many sections are on high, narrow ledges carved into the canyon. What were they thinking? https://durangosilvertonrailroad.com
    The "million dollar highway" from Silverton to Ouray ("U-ray") is gorgeous. My wife knew to take the wheel there so I wouldn't drive us off the road at every bend. https://www.dangerousroads.org/north...ghway-usa.html
    And Mesa Verde is a great national park. https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvis...p2018_8x11.jpg

    My daughter and I hiked Centennial Peak, a half-day hike to a 13K in the middle of nowhere. About 2 miles each way, 2000 feet gain, some loose talus near the summit. We used the DeLorme Colorado Gazetteer to get there. I'm sure there are online sources now.

    Plenty of scenery, and plenty to keep your friend active.
    58.96% When in doubt, go up.

  3. #3
    Senior Member jniehof's Avatar
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    Durango's a pretty fun town to just poke around.

    One good day hike would be just to park at Molas Pass and take the Colorado Trail "south" (actually west from here.)

    I do like Mesa Verde, but it can be pretty crowded, and Spruce Tree House is closed, so your friend will need to get the tickets for the other tours. The "squeeze" in Balcony House isn't all that bad.

  4. #4
    Senior Member weatherman's Avatar
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    Such a great area. Living in CO, I still have not backpacked there though it's high on my to-do list. It's FAR from Denver (6+ hrs) so we've been there as car tourists only.
    Couple things:
    - The Chicago Basin area is the classic backpacking place. Info: https://sjma.org/area-info/chicago-b...r-backpackers/
    - There are many other hiking and backpacking opportunities.
    - Late Sept, be prepared for snow. Labor Day, be prepared for hordes. In between can be paradise.
    - If the monsoon lasts longer than typical, it may be wet. But would not let that dissuade you.
    - Biggest thing is the incredible drought in that area this year. The San Juans got 20% of their typical snowfall last year, leading to extreme fire risk, forest closures (like you can't go in to the National Forest right now!) and a big fire called the 416 fire which basically now occupies half of the west side of US 550 between Durango and Silverton. The train is not running right now. The fire is mostly under control but has had devastating consequences this summer for the tourist season.
    - The monsoon which is starting this week (really in the past 3-4 days) may change much of this, with typical good rains for the next 4-6 weeks.
    - So don't change any plans yet, but stay tuned, especially regarding forest closures and camping restrictions.

    Enjoy!
    --would rather be hiking than typing.

  5. #5
    Senior Member vegematic's Avatar
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    I hiked the Colorado Trail last summer, going through that area; its southern terminus is at Durango. This area of the trail has just been reopened after a closure due to wildfire. Referring to the Colorado Trail Foundations "segments" of the CT I would recommend Elk Creek Canyon in segment 24, which can be reached via the Durango & Silverton RR if it operating, or by a longer hike from Molas Lake Campground (a really nice, quiet campground). A second recommendation would be the Indian Trail Ridge in segment 27. Check out the Colorado Trail Foundation website for side trails accessing these areas.
    -vegematic
    If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat

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