Trip Report - Durango riding (pic heavy)
Including my 3-day Colorado Trail bikepack I spent a total of 10 days in Durango. Its by far my favorite CO destination so far, with awesome views and great trails. Some of the rides were well known must-do's and some were lesser known back country. There is a lot of each type here, definitely something for everyone.
I showed up in the morning and soon found camp at Hermosa Creek campground, its at the southern Hermosa Creek trailhead. Its free, and while it doesn't have water it does have great access to the trails with both Hermosa and Jones Creek trails starting right there.
The ride for the first day would be Jones - Pinkerton-Flagstaff - Dutch Creek
My intro to Durango singletrack
The climb was mostly gentle with a few steep spots, no worse than San Juan trail for anyone familiar with SoCal riding
The trail is interesting because you cross through several zones, from pine/oak forest to aspen. Ran into 2 hikers, 2 bikers, and 3 motos on Jones. No one after that.
Views were great up top. For a little extra mileage I did a side out-n-back to the southern end of Pinkerton-Flagstaff trail, stopping where it drops off in switchbacks down the ridge.
Pinkerton-Flag, heading north of Jones Cr.
While there was some HAB up and some rutted out descents, the aspens made for nice views in any direction
Turning onto Dutch Creek Trail
I really liked Dutch. It had a bit of everything, from flowy spots to some chunk to some short steep climbs. At the end there was a 4 mi section of Hermosa Creek trail which dropped me right to my campsite and waiting beers.
Stats for the day: 23.9mi, 5,515 gain/loss, elev range: 7,700 to 10,240.
Without the Pinkerton-Flag out-n-back it would be 19mi and 4,450.
For the second day I was able to meet up with Liz aka 3blackbikes, who moved to Durango earlier this year with her husband. She has been exploring the trails ever since and had some good suggestions. For today's ride we would head up Cascade Creek to Graysill Trail, to the Colorado Trail, down Corral Draw and back down Hermosa Creek to my campsite. A big ride, but would show some of the best riding in the area...
Heading up Cascade Creek.
Dirt road past some houses soon turns to singletrack and heads up the valley
Climbing up above Cascade Creek there is some exposure and technical climbing. Also, a few trees down
But the views up the valley are awesome and we switch back and forth between forested singletrack and open meadows
We miss the turn onto Graysill and have to backtrack 1/2 mi. After crossing the creek we climb. I was expecting mostly HAB seeing the switchbacks on the map, but it was mostly rideable.
We got rained on for most of the climb up Graysill but by the top things had cleared up and it was hard to tell any rain had fallen at all
Looking over toward Engineer Mtn
Heading around to Section Point
There was some tough climbing
But stopping for breath was no issue as it gave time to take in the views
Heading north around the peaks
Finally passing over Section Point
Blackhawk Pass was our next big hurdle
The descent off Blackhawk was very fun
Last bit of descent
And after a bit more climbing we are on to Corral Draw
Corral doesn't have much climbing to it and is a blast to descent. Views aren't bad, either
Some nice forested singletrack awaits
And a final traverse down to Hermosa Creek
Liz opted to climb the top of Hermosa and grab her car rather than "descend" Hermosa and then have to retrieve. After riding most of the trail I understood why...its a lot of doubletrack, a lot of climbing for a descent, and a lot of the trail is really not much fun to ride. Personally the CT and other stuff that we did today was much nicer.
Stats for the day.... 46mi, 7,000 gain, 8,050 loss, elev range: 7,470 to 12,000
Awesome report and photos!
CT to Engineer Mtn
For Day 4 in Durango we were ready for another good ride. Weather was still a bit iffy with 30% of rain listed for Silverton, after 11am. Engineer Mtn is one of the premier rides in the area and one I didn't want to miss and one that Liz wanted to do again. Things looked good early on, so it was a go.
View from Molas Pass is excellent
Skies seem to be changing from sunny to cloudy every few seconds
We soon enter a landscape dusted by recent snow
Peaks shrouded in cloud tower over us
The sun comes out once again
Traversing below a line of peaks
Creeks which had been dry recently are now running with cold clear water
Clouds move in again
Climbing up to a higher valley things soon look cold and bleak
The only apparent sign of life are some very recent tracks
Recent enough we kept looking around us hoping not to see the source
We continue climbing
Intersection of CT and Engineer Mtn
We briefly debate whether it would be better to continue on CT, continue down Engineer Mtn or turn back. A storm is closing in all around us so there doesn't seem to be a good answer. We decide to continue down Engineer Mtn as it is the shortest way out.
Its cold enough trail conditions are not bad
We put on all the layers we have with us
The sun comes out again and some layers come off
Traversing over to Engineer Mtn itself
Checking out the peak. There is no lightning, but definite thunder in the distance so there is no thought of bagging the peak
Intermittant snow turns to hail as we descend Engineer Mtn Trail
After exiting the trees the hail stops and we seem to be out of the worst. Pass a few hikers on their way up
We round the bottom of the mountain towards Cascade Creek
Glad we're no longer up top
I stop for pics after we retrieve the vehicle from Molas. Colors are unreal
Aspens at peak color. With sun poking through here and there the camera cannot do justice to the color and the light!
Stats for the day: 25.5mi, 2,850 gain, 4,960 loss, elev range: 8,750 to 12,200. Things weren't too bad except for frozen fingers on the descent - I'd like to hit this ride again when temps are more pleasant!
Little Elk Creek
A few days off regular Durango rides for my CT bike-pack, I was back on the trail solo for a few days as Liz was back to work. I had parked my truck at the campground during the bikepack so everything was set for me when I got back. There were some other trails in Hermosa Creek drainage I wanted to explore, so being that these were easy rides from camp, they were up next.
As with my first day I rode up Jones Creek and up Pinkerton-Flag
This time, the route would take me some miles further up Pinkerton-Flag
My pals were still around. They weren't any more impressed with the fact it was old dirt road than I was, as soon as I approached they took off into the fields
Brief view of peaks to the east
The start of Little Elk Trail. It drops 12mi from Pinkerton-Flag down to Hermosa Creek
The trail goes along the ridge top for a long ways. Some of it is doubletrack thanks to cattle
Some of it goes along wooden fence lines due to cattle ranching
Meandering trail below colorful aspens
The trail finally starts to descend. In places you have multiple cow trails to choose from
Definitely peak aspen time
I came across 3 camps like this, only one was occupied
Another cabin, seemingly abandoned, or maybe just very rustic?
There were a couple spots on the trail that were tough to navigate. One was at this cabin. Map only showed one trail, but 3-4 branched out from here. The one most obvious per the map seemed to dive right into the creek bed into cow trail hell. I took some time to check the others out but in the end only cow trail hell made sense. Turned out the trail emerged from the creek bed in less than 1/2 mi and got good again.
The trail from the last camp down was really fun. The only bummer was having to ride out on Hermosa again. After some sweet trail, the Hermosa ending seems like a bit of a let down with some steep-ish climbs. But some fun sections at the end make up for it and I am soon back in camp drinking beers. Only people I saw on the trail today were 3 motos coming off Dutch Cr at the end of the day. Camp 3 was occupied though the residents were inside cooking dinner.
Stats for the day: 31.8mi, gain/loss 5,500; elev range: 7,500 to 10,800
Elbert Cr - Hermosa - BRNRT
Another ride I wanted to do would be pretty much all new dirt. I drove up to Purgatory and parked near the ski hill base.
Incredible view up to Engineer Mtn
I pedalled south on the pavement to the Needles store. Very pretty ride despite some traffic on the road
Elbert Creek trail starts off steep and doesn't relent for some time. It was mostly rideable but there were lots of "breathing" stops and short bits of HAB
Traversing up the ridge
Up top the grade mellowed out some but the climbing continued
Looking back east towards the peaks on the far side of the valley.
The trail had what looked like some recent work on it up top to re-establish trail benches and re-route it out of a swampy area. Very nice stuff. After some more short climbs I crested and soon was on some leaf covered singletrack as I get to the drop on the far side of Elbert Creek
The "drop" had a lot of climbing on it at first, but some awesome views looking SW into Hermosa Creek drainage
More SW views
Up and over a tricky rocky outcrop
The final bit of Elbert has some definite gnar. Its steep and loose with some tough switchbacks, a definite contrast to the rest of the trail. I finally reach Hermosa Creek
Had my fishing gear with me in hopes of getting some return on the cost of my expensive non-resident license!
Too much time spent fishing and I had to motor up the Hermosa Creek trail. Late afternoon yields good light however, and I got some nice views up and down the valley. Note the cabin on the far side, hidden in the creeping shadow of the valley
I scope out the BRNRT trail (thats what its called on the map) which parallels Hermosa Park Road
Nowhere had I read anything about this trail, but its actually a cool little used trail that ends into doubletrack near the most westerly ski lift at Purgatory
I took the roads and eventually connected up to Hermosa Park Rd, and then hooked into some trails (1998 Worlds?) on the ski hill
I briefly contemplated climbing back to hit up a run on the slide track but didn't feel like doing any more climbing
View of the village
View of Engineer Mtn late in the day
Full moon rising
Another great ride, stats: 27.2mi; gain/loss 3,400; elev range: 8,400 to 10,450
This was planned to be my last day in Durango. I wanted to hit up a morning ride on Purgatory Flat to Animas River Trail at its Wilderness boundary, and then in the afternoon check out some stuff on Missionary Ridge. Unfortunately, some mechanical problems near the bottom of the descent would end my ride and send me hiking instead.
Trail starts off sweet with a bit of flat then a 700ft descent
Nice trail in the aspens
View looking south towards Animas River
Looking east towards Weminuche Wilderness
Heading toward the creek
I soon discover a couple problems. 1, the d-hanger bolt is missing. I have a spare but it does not clamp tightly. 2) there is a ton of play in the rear hub, something is wrong. I ditch the bike and hike the rest of the way to the Animas River with another hiker I'd met. Lookout down to the river
Animas River bridge. The Durango-Silverton railway goes through here. It was very nice of them to leave a corridor through the Wilderness to allow this line to continue.
Looking east up the river.
The mechanicals killed my afternoon ride, and I was later told I had cracked the free hub body in two. ???? Never heard of that before. Fortunately, the shop had a replacement in stock so I was out the door without much delay.
Stats for the day: 9.2mi, 1,700ft gain/loss; elev range 7,700 to 8,800
Truely epic. A must do. Thanks for sharing.
Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....
I agree with everyone... is post is so RAD!!!
Man, Durango sucks!
I don't know why anyone would waste their time there...the trails (weak), the views (boring), in fact, I just wasted half an hour reading this thread and looking at the crappy photos!
Of course, I've been going there with my wife the last eight years for vacation to ride the crappy boring trails there but maybe one of these days I'll get wise and go somewhere new ;-)
Seriously, great job man. We've ridden out at Hermosa but not that far out, now I know we need to hit it up again.
Thanks for the stoke and brilliant photos! What a truly epic experience
Last edited by keithrad; 11-07-2012 at 10:42 AM.
One heck of a ride report with very nice pics!! Quite an epic event!!
Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT
I live in Durango and I'm impressed!
Nicely done! Love the bear prints.
Your fear of looking stupid is holding you back.
Looks like an amazing journey!
Amazing post. Going to book mark so I know what to ride next summer! Thanks.
Amazing pics! I had a blast being your tour guide and thanks for letting me be your model. Those were some great rides. We will have to do it again next summer/fall.
And there's my answer... I was wondering how a so cal boy could find all those trails on a map by himself that were so photogenic, when what it takes is local talent as a guide to show one the goods. Awesome job 3 blackbikes, I'm gonna hit you with some big rep for that post. Bumped you up a green chicklet to two now.
Originally Posted by 3blackbikes
Well, gee, thanks!
Originally Posted by RandyBoy
I am still a newbie to Durango and some of those rides were new to me as well... it's always better to have someone to explore with, as Durango is a big town in the sense of a lot of bikers all doing their own things, I just spread the map out on the floor and pick something new. There's still plenty of untapped and mysterious trails for me to test next summer... that is the great beauty of Colorado and the draw to move here- no boredom!
Did either of you log these rides on a garmin or GPS unit so the tracks can be uploaded by us mere mortals to follow on our old Edge 305's? A link on Garmin Connect or Geoladders, or ???
Awesome--so nice, thanks for posting up. I was in Durango in June and can't wait to go back. Good stuff!
EvDog might have. I like the old fashioned way... I take a Latitude 40 map and my above-average(for a girl) natural sense of direction.
Originally Posted by RandyBoy
Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT
Great reports. You get a lot of nice shots in. What is your choice of camera equipment on the trail, btw? Thanks for sharing. Seems like every winter I find myself looking for some sweet trip reports to stoke the flame! And it looks like I have found the motherload. Merry Christmas!/Happy New Year.
"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement." -- Mark Twain
Nice report! I'm a huge fan of the high country above Durango. The Colorado Trail from Molas to Durango is amazing.
"Careful. We don't want to learn from this." -- Calvin & Hobbes
WOW!!!! I had this link sent to me. What a trip. Thanks for this!
Thanks for the bump, Funrover, as I just saw this. Great stuff! And I find it kind of humorous (and probably accurate) that the OP found Hermosa Creek trail to be just ok, when it is perhaps the most famous local trail. It is good, but so many better ones out there.