The south end of the Calico National Recreation Trail in southwest Colorado climbs into the high forest country between the Dolores River valley and the West Fork of the Dolores valley.
The trail head is about 26 miles north of the town of Dolores on Highway 145. It is about 2 miles north of the Bear Creek Trailhead. The trail head elevation is 8050 feet.
The Priest Gulch Trail begins at the same trailhead. The Priest Gulch Trail follows Priest Creek and the Calico Trail crosses the creek and starts climbing steeply.
As the trail climbs steeply, there is a good view of the Dolores River valley below. The trail head is across thehighway from a commercial campground. When you see travel trailers on the highways getting away from it all, they are headed for places where they can live under crowded trailer park conditions.
The forest here is lush, with Ponderosa pines, firs, and spruce, aspens, and good wildflower displays. I walked uphill steadily for 2:20 hours, maybe about four miles.
If I had made it to seven miles I would have come to the intersection with the Priest Gulch Trail and could have looped back. This trail appears to get a fair amount of horseback use. Horses seem to grind trails into a narrow shallow trench, so narrow that I have trouble walking on them.
There is another connection between the trails that I reached after 1:15 hours. I was going to take this route back so I could see both trails but I had trouble finding it, and then there was a bolt of lightning and the crash of thunder. Then it started to rain and I was at least 0:45 minutes from my car. If I had found the connection, it descends steeply and crosses Priest Creek about 2 miles from the trailhead.
I think the Calico Trail started as a route for sheep to get to the high pastures there are remnants of old fences along the trail. The trail goes on for about 15 miles to the beautiful place called "The Meadows" at the foot of the San Miguel range of mountains in the Lizard Head Wilderness..
(There is a post on the north end of the Calico Trail in the Four Corners Hikes-Telluride blog. The north end of the trail has some of the most spectacular mountain views in the area.)