You don’t have to give up hiking or long walks in the woods just because there’s a foot or two of snow outside. In fact, having a foot or two of snow is a great opportunity to experience the quiet beauty of a landscape covered in billowing white.
Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced winter trekker, Vallecito Creek Trail and the Weminuche Wilderness area offers a place to get out and enjoy hiking in the snow on the same trails you use in the summer. All you need is a pair of snowshoes. Strap those babies onto some good winter boots and you’re good to go.
You will find the beginning of Vallecito Creek Trail at the Vallecito Creek campground, just a few miles past the North end of Vallecito Lake near the towns of Bayfield and Durango. Vallecito Creek borders one side of the campground and the whole area is quite beautiful and pristine.
First time snowshoers will find Vallecito Creek Trail is an excellent place for their first snowshoeing experience. The campground area is fairly flat. It’s a good place for newbies to use the trail or venture off into the powder and get used to the feel of wearing and walking around with these large contraptions on their feet.
Part of the trail loops around the edge of the campground and offers gentle inclines and declines. This trail is fairly easy and enjoyable for beginners.
You can take the loop around the perimeter of the campground (the trail begins at the Southwest edge of the parking lot) or follow a trail through the campground and over a footbridge that crosses the creek. Crossing the footbridge takes you into the Weminuche Wilderness area and the trail begins to climb up to two overlooks, one to two miles from the campground.
After traversing the area in and around the campground you should be ready to head to the bridge, cross over the creek and begin the climb up to the first overlook. You may encounter a tree limb or two across the trail but these obstacles aren’t too difficult to step over, although smaller children may need some assistance here. From the first overlook you can choose to continue on up to the second or come back down to the campground area.
The more seasoned snowshoers who embrace the challenges of winter trekking and camping can head straight through the campground, cross the bridge and continue past the two overlooks for several miles. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Weminuche Wilderness has 499,771 acres of high elevation, rugged backcountry to offer you.
After your snowy adventuring, Vallecito has some good places to pick up snacks or warm up and enjoy a great meal when you come off the trail. Vallecito Country Market, the Rusty Shovel Saloon, the Lakehouse and the Rocky Mountain General Store and Meats are all located within a few miles from the trailhead on County Road 501.
You should see them as you pass by on your way to and from the trailhead. Between them they offer everything from snacks and sandwiches to steak dinners and family style meals. Take advantage of their hospitality. Relax, enjoy yourself and recharge after some good fun in the snow.
Snowshoeing equipment is relatively inexpensive to rent for the day. Packages with snowshoes and poles are $15 to $25. Boot rentals are also available if you need them.
Wherever you can hike, you should be able to snowshoe, however, be mindful of any avalanche warnings in the area you are heading into. Dress for the snow and stay aware of your surroundings, it’s easy to get caught up in the wonder of it all! Most of all, enjoy yourself and have fun!
Snowshoe Rentals in Durango
- Ski Barn – 970-247-1923
- 2nd Avenue Sports – 970-247-4511
From Bayfield, Colorado: 22 miles – 36 minutes
- From the intersection at Hwy 160 and Co Rd 501 in Bayfield, CO go North on Co Rd 501 (at the roundabout take the Co Rd 501 exit) – 18.2 mi
- Turn left onto Co Rd 500 2.6 mi
- Go to the end of Co Rd 500 and turn left into the parking area, the campground will be on your right.
From Durango, Colorado: 30 miles – 58 minutes
- From Main Avenue take East 15th Street
- At the roundabout take the Florida Rd/Co Rd 240 exit – continue 11 miles
- Turn right onto Co Rd 245 (Corner known as Helen’s Store) – 4.9 miles
- Turn left onto Co Rd 501 – 10 miles
- Turn left onto Co Rd 500 – 2.6 miles
- Go to the end of Co Rd 500 and turn left into the parking area
Links to U.S. Forest Service Information:
Columbine Ranger District Office – (970) 884-2512