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Snowshoeing in Durango: Our 7 Favorite Trails

It’s that time of year again- snowshoeing season!

If you’re visiting or traveling through southwestern Colorado and have the itch to bust out your snowshoes, consider making a stop in beautiful Durango, Colorado.

While Durango doesn’t get as much snow compared to its more northerly neighbors like Silverton, snowshoeing is one of the best ways to spend your time in Durango- especially if you’re looking to get outside without going skiing or snowboarding at nearby Purgatory Resort.

Assuming Durango has a base of at least six inches of snow, there are plenty of trails to explore via snowshoe. These trails range from easy to difficult and offer a variety of views of the nearby La Plata Mountain range, Animas River Valley, and the mesas that border Durango on all sides.

These snowshoe trails are laden with fresh powder, serenity, peacefulness, and picturesque views!

To help narrow down your options, we’re providing our trail recommendations on where to start your snowshoeing Microadventure!

Here’s a list of our favorite places to snowshoe around Durango, Colorado:



#7 Meadow Loop Trail

East of Downtown Durango

The Meadow Loop trail is part of the extensive Horse Gulch trail system located just outside of downtown Durango. The 3.5-mile trail starts from the Horse Gulch trailhead off of East 3rd Street and East 8th Avenue and creates the classic lollipop shape.

You’ll begin snowshoeing up a shallow canyon (Horse Gulch) for just over half a mile. From there, the canyon opens up revealing a valley surrounded by jagged mesas. At this point, the trail connects with the actual Meadow Loop trail.

The Meadow Loop trail follows the valley floor in a counterclockwise direction. As you’re snowshoeing, you’ll weave in and out of the snowcovered brush in between views of the scenery. Expect views of the mesas that hug the valley as well as the La Plata Mountain range as you start to snowshoe back south on the trail.

Fair warning, the beginning of the Horse Gulch trailhead gets very muddy thanks to the downhill nature of the wash.

We highly recommend snowshoeing the Meadow Loop trail only when there’s a thick base of snow on a colder day.

#6 Along the Shore of Vallecito Reservoir

Vallecito Nordic Ski Trails- East of Downtown Durango

A favorite spot to snowshoe for locals: Vallecito Nordic! Located 30 minutes from downtown Durango lies the scenic Vallecito Reservoir. Nestled in a valley surrounded by red cliff mesas, this man-made lake is a prime spot for snowshoeing in the Winter; especially after heavy snowfall.

At the eastern edge of Vallecito Reservoir lies 15kms of groomed nordic trails maintained by the Vallecito Nordic Ski Club. While most are reserved for cross country skiing, there is still an established snowshoeing trail along the shoreline.

Most people will start snowshoeing at the Old Timers campground- the official “trailhead” of the nordic center. While the official snowshoeing trail might seem short compared to others on our list, you can continue snowshoeing along the shoreline of the Vallecito Reservoir once the nordic trail ceases.

However, be very careful past the Pine Point campground since you’ll venture near private residences. It’s best to stick to the shoreline whenever possible.

The trails are very easy and very flat- perfect for beginner snowshoers.

Along the way, you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of the red mesa cliffs to the west and the jagged Grenadier Mountains to the north on clear days.




#5 Church Camp Trail

North of Durango

Located north of downtown Durango, but before you hit the town of Hermosa, the Church Camp trail is a 4-mile round trip snowshoeing trail that is perfect for beginners. This trail is one of the easiest trails in the area to snowshoe.

Shaped like a giant lollipop, the Church Camp trail is a small portion of the natural recreation area known unofficially as the Falls Creek area.

The entire snowshoeing trail lies on the valley floor in between two, tree-covered mesas. The mesas are covered in juniper, pine, and oak trees that radiate in the Winter sun after fresh snow. On good years, the Church Camp trail offers more snow than other parts of Durango.

Most of the trail will consist of snowshoeing on relatively flat ground. As you near the far, northern end of the trail, you’ll climb a little bit up the side of the mesa. The climb is short-lived and can be easily avoided, either by turning around at that spot or finding a lesser graded trail.

Unlike the warmer months, snowshoeing the Church Camp trail doesn’t really follow any established trail. Trail markers and cairns are absent during the Winter. Winter-to-Winter, you’ll not likely to snowshoe on the exact same trail as before.

That being said, the Church Camp trail is straight-shot through the valley floor and doesn’t require you to follow your GPS to enjoy snowshoeing it.

As you’re stomping along on your snowshoes, look left (west) and towards the rim of the mesa for frozen waterfalls. During the Spring, these waterfalls melt quickly producing huge, gushing waterfalls that tumble over 150 feet to the foot of the mesas.

The Church Camp trail is easily accessible from downtown Durango and is a great way to spend a few hours snowshoeing without a long approach.

#4 Hermosa Creek Trail

North of Downtown Durango

If you’re looking for a quieter place to snowshoe around Durango, consider heading a little bit out of town. The Hermosa Creek trail lies north of Durango by about 15 minutes and offers beautiful views of the forest and La Plata Mountains to the south.

The Hermosa Creek trail itself is located off of County Road 201 just past the Lower Hermosa Campground. However, the gate to the actual trailhead is locked and closed from Fall to Spring. Similar to other snowshoeing trails on our list, you’ll be driving as far as you can on the road before pulling over to start snowshoeing.

The Hermosa Creek trail is a fairly easy snowshoe and is done as an out-and-back. Similar to the Colorado Trail, the Hermosa Creek trail is a major thru-hiking trail around Durango. In this case, the trail can be taken all the way to Telluride.

However, we don’t recommend snowshoeing the whole trail during Winter. The Hermosa Creek trail crosses numerous avalanche paths and is extremely remote.

We highly recommend snowshoeing no more than five miles on the Hermosa Creek trail before turning around for the day.

This ensures that you’ll avoid any nasty avalanche paths and continue to snowshoe for another day.

All things considered, the Hermosa Creek trail is a moderate snowshoeing trail. Depending on how far away you park from the actual start of the trail, you’re going to be snowshoeing on County Road 201 for at least a mile before heading into the densely-wooded area.

Once you’re in the forest, on the actual trail, you’ll dip down and climb back up several times throughout the day as you stomp your way along the side of a ridge.

Stunning views can be enjoyed once you start hugging the ridgelines. You’ll see the La Plata Mountains to the south, the Hermosa Creek rushing at the bottom of the valley, and miles and miles of snow-capped trees.

We love this trail because of its views and lack of traffic during the Winter.




#3 Colorado Trail to Gudy’s Rest

Northwest of Downtown Durango

When asking a local where to snowshoe in Durango, the most likely answer will probably be the Colorado Trail to Gudy’s Rest.

The Colorado Trail from Junction Creek is technically the first, or last section of the Colorado Trail and stretches all the way to Molas Pass just outside of Silverton, Colorado.

We’re not suggesting to snowshoe the whole way- but you can if you want!

No, we’re recommending snowshoeing just to Gudy’s Rest an 8-mile, round-trip out-and-back day.

Along the way, you’ll snowshoe up and down pine-covered ridges and along the incredible Junction Creek with views of pristine, snow-covered trees.

While the snowshoeing can be tough in places thanks to the elevation change and overall narrowness of the trail, it is definitely worth the challenge.

After crossing Junction Creek via a bridge, you’ll climb your way to the top of a hill with a lookout of the mesas to the south of downtown Durango. This spot is known as Gudy’s Rest. At the rest at the spot, you can take it all in, while sitting at the permanent bench overlooking the view.

Most people turn around at this point and snowshoe back to the trailhead.

But as mentioned before you can snowshoe along the Colorado Trail all the way to Molas Pass near Silverton if you please. We just recommend packing a little bit more than a day pack for that!

#2 Old Lime Creek Road

North of Durango off of Highway 550

Located just past Purgatory Resort, 20 or so minutes from downtown Durango, lies Old Lime Creek Road. This old, mining road hugs the valley floor that snakes adjacent to the Needle Mountain range. Snowshoeing on the road itself offers incredible views of the nearby peaks and forests.

Where you’ll actually start snowshoeing and the length of your day depends on how deep the snow is. Old Lime Creek Road is located in an area of the Weminuche Wilderness that receives a ton of snow each Winter. The more snow that is present on the road, the less likely you’ll drive further along to start snowshoeing.

In my personal experience, I’ve had to park just off of Highway 550 in order to start snowshoeing. The snow gets deep quickly making it a challenge for people who do not have snow tires or an aggressive four-wheel-drive car.

After you figure out your parking situation, bust out your snowshoes and get going! Snowshoeing on Old Lime Creek Road is a blast! The views are spectacular.

Most people will snowshoe along the road itself up into the forest towards the famous and prominent Potato Hill; a distinguished mountain that looks like a giant potato protruding into the sky.

Along the way, you’ll be greeted with snow-covered aspens and pine trees in between views of the towering 13,000-foot peaks in the distance. The Needle Mountains will be visible throughout your day of snowshoeing.

As you return to your car (by facing west), you’ll be greeted by Engineer Mountain, Gray Rock Peak, and San Miguel Peak intimidating you by their prominence.

Basically, in between pockets of trees of snow cover trees, you’ll have nearly 360° of mountain views.

Snowshoe down Old Lime Creek Road as far as you want.  Most people will turn around after reaching the start of the Potato Lake trailhead: just under three miles from the parking area off of Highway 550.

However, if you are feeling frisky and wanting more time snowshoeing, you can make the 4-mile round-trip hike to Potato Lake at the base of Potato Hill.

#1 Along County Road 124 in La Plata Canyon

West of Downtown Durango

Similar to snowshoeing off of Old Lime Creek Road (see above for more details) County Road 124 in La Plata Canyon is an experience everyone should have when visiting and playing in Durango during the Winter.

La Plata Canyon, which is more of a valley than an actual canyon, is nestled between the two mountain passes that make up the official La Plata Mountain range.

County Road 124 is closed off during the Winter just past the town of Mayday. This is where you’ll park and start snowshoeing. The only tracks you’ll see past the parking area will be from other snowshoers, snowmobiles, and cross country skiers.

Over 300,000 acres of wilderness await that are prime for snowshoeing. You can spend a full week exploring the La Plata Canyon via snowshoe and still not cover the whole place.

However, we recommend sticking along the County Road 124 and any adjacent social trails you find along the way. La Plata Canyon is prone to avalanches during the Winter- especially as you start to climb out of the valley itself. It doesn’t take much digging around the internet to come across stories of people triggering avalanches once they veered off of County Road 124.

In order to stay safe while snowshoeing in this area, we recommend snowshoeing on County Road 124.

Unless you are trained in backcountry and avalanche awareness do not snowshoe in the mountains in La Plata County.

Similar to Old Lime Creek Road, snowshoeing in La Plata Canyon comes with a 360° view of mountains. The La Plata Mountains feature 10+ peaks above 12,000 feet- with you at the base of them as you snowshoe along the valley floor. You’re likely going to spend more time gazing up at the peaks than you are down at your feet!

The route itself is an out-and-back along County Road 124. Snowshoe as long as you want before turning around. Most people turn around before the steep climb up to Kennebec Pass which is the high point that overlooks La Plata Mountains and the San Juan National Forest to the north.

It’s hard to describe the views you’ll experience while snowshoeing in La Plata Canyon along County Road 124. Breathtaking views of the neighboring mountains, snow-capped aspens, and the bubbling, semi-frozen La Plata River are a few reasons why this spot is our favorite place to snowshoe around Durango.



Conclusion

Durango might be considered a hidden-gem for snowshoeing in southwestern Colorado. While Durango doesn’t receive as much snow as its northerly neighbors like Silverton or Ouray, there are still plenty of places to break out your snowshoes and hit the trails.

With grand vistas you’ll see on the Church Camp trail or in La Plata Canyon, you’re definitely in for some awe-inspiring views while you stomp your way through the brush via snowshoe.

Nick The Rambling Man
Nick The Rambling Man

Nick is the owner and regular content writer for Southwest Microadventures. When he’s not writing, you can find him rock climbing, peak bagging, mountain biking, backpacking, or drinking strong coffee.

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